MANILA, Philippines – The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) voiced its "grave concern" over President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to ban Rappler journalists from entering Malacañang.
"FOCAP considers this as a blatant attack on freedom of the press, a right guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and the United Nations," said this group of journalists working for foreign news agencies.
"The restriction, which came after Rappler reported about a senior presidential aide dragged into a navy frigate deal, is disturbing. FOCAP underscores the critical role of the press in a functioning and vibrant democracy," FOCAP added
Duterte banned Rappler from Malacañang after his closest aide, Christopher "Bong" Go, faced a Senate probe prompted by stories published by both Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer on a controversial frigate deal.
In its statement, FOCAP also said it "condemns threats of physical harm to journalists, especially coming from state forces whose mandate is to protect civilians."
This was after the commander of the Presidential Security Group, Brigadier General Lope Dagoy, said Ranada should have been grateful that the PSG did not hurt her after she "bullied" him with questions for stopping her at the Malacañang gate.
FOCAP also clarified that "is an accredited organization to cover the President's official activities." Their members receive identification cards from the International Press Center under the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
"FOCAP journalists are therefore accredited to cover the president’s official day-to-day activities, like the members of the Malacañang Press Corps," the group said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier claimed, "We don’t allow FOCAP into the Palace and to cover these press briefings…They don't have ready access to the Palace, they don't have accreditation." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.