Tuesday, February 1, 2011
ORDER BANNING REPORTERS IN AIRPORTS RILES MEDIA GROUPS
Media groups are furious over a plan by authorities to ban reporters inside the country’s international airports.
Former Airforce Maj. Gen. Angel Honrado, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager, wants to keep reporters restricted to the airport’s lobby.
Honrado, once a close-in aide of then President Corazon Aquino, argued this was needed to tighten security at the country’s gateway to millions of visitors as well as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
The MIAA runs the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the two other terminals that service international travelers.
“Full access to these airports is indispensable to the work of airport newsmen if only to perform their legal, social and moral duties to the public and exercise inviolable press freedom,” National Press Club of the Philippines president Jerry Yap wrote in a letter to Transportation & Communications Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus.
“The airports are vital installations where thousands of public interest events are taking place every day and affecting the development of a country,” he stressed.
For reporters, the airport is a virtual gold mine of stories.
Just recently, immigration agents foiled an attempt by six women to slip out of the country by dressing up and pretending to be nuns.
Last December, a vacationing Fil-Am US Navy officer died under mysterious circumstances while in the custody of airport police.
Most news events transpire and the officials who can shed light on them are inside the airport, not at the lobby, reporters pointed out.
Veteran airport journalist Raoul Esperas asked this writer, “What kind of pictures can you get from the lobby? When Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, wasn’t it media that first carried the cudgels? Who will report about the Jun Lozada’s or the Jocjoc Bolante's when the public has no eyes and ears that the press provides.”
Lozada, who blew the whistle on an anomalous deal involving members of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's family and lieutenants, was taken by government agents as he stepped off a plane and he's attributed media's vigilance to foiling an alleged attempt to silence him.
Bolante, implicated in a multi-million-peso fertilizer scam, managed to slip out the country before he could be pinned down. The United States deported him back in 2008.
The MIAA is also a chief source of flight travel information that obviously needs to be disseminated swiftly to the public.
It has accredited reporters assigned to the NAIA which allowed them to more thoroughly check their background.
But they also allow unaccredited reporters who are required to submit written requests from their editors or news managers that at times prove cumbersome when there are breaking news events.
Yap suggested the presence of newsmen deter abuses from the gamut of government agents working at airports, from the airport police to immigration and customs agencies.
“The best and conclusive argument to this is the fact that full access has been enjoyed by airport newsmen for more than five decades without any form of breach of security,” Yap said.
More importantly, he added, banning reporters inside the airport violates the Philippine Constitution that assure, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of the press.”
Yap said that if the ban is not withdrawn, they will seek a court order to stop its enforcement.