SOME unpleasant happenings went unnoticed and almost unreported by media in the excitement of the 5-day Iglesia ni Cristo protest that ended on Monday, August 31. This was the assault on a photo-journalist, the rough treatment of a reporter who tried to help the assaulted cameramen, and the harassment of some motorists by some members of the INC.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJP) issued the following statement:
“The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines deplores the assault on a cameraman of the ABS-CBN network covering the recent protest action of the Iglesia ni Cristo near the EDSA Shrine, who was jeered at even as he was being attacked.
“Melchor Pinlac said he was grabbed by the neck, punched on the jaw, body, and back of the neck as the crowd around him chanted, ‘Biased, biased.’
“A reporter of GMA network’s station dzBB, Olan Bola, was also shoved around as he tried to stop the attack on Pinlac although luckily he was not hurt.
“It is perhaps inevitable that some quarters may feel, rightly or wrongly, that a media outfit or practitioner may be biased against an issue they feel strongly about. However, not this or anything perceived to be a slight, for that matter, can ever justify a physical assault against media practitioners.
“Given that in such mass gatherings as the INC protest, it does not take much for a peaceful crowd to transform into an out of control mob, it was the responsibility of the religious group’s leaders to rein in their followers. That they failed to do so can be attested to by many other reports of motorists and passersby being harassed, in some instances physically. For this, the leadership of the INC is primarily to blame.
“Whatever feelings the INC or its members may have towards particular media outfits, this does not give them the license to assault journalists who are merely performing their duty to record the unfolding events. The INC leadership, in particular, should know this since, after all, they do operate a media network themselves.
“But law enforcement authorities and the government, too, should be taken to task for failing to ensure peace and order.
“It is infuriating to witness the orgy of back-patting and self-congratulations by the likes of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and police officials, who even thanked the INC for a ‘peaceful’ protest.
“It is even more outrageous for the police to even suggest that they would forward any complaints over the conduct of the protest to the INC.
“We demand that the police act speedily and directly should Mr. Pinlac and any other colleagues who may have been harassed or hurt during the protest choose to file a complaint.
“We also call on the leadership of the INC, if they believe in fairness and justice, to issue a public apology to Mr. Pinlac and Mr. Bola, as well as their networks, and ensure their members’ cooperation should our colleagues choose to take legal action against those who assaulted them.”
We wholeheartedly agree with the NUJP.