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SEVENTEEN JOURNALISTS ARRESTED WHILE COVERING ATTEMPTED COUP

Police arrested and detained 17 journalists last week who were reporting on an attempted coup by rebel army soldiers in Manila, report the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The Philippine National Police stormed the Peninsula Hotel in the capital on 29 November to end a seven-hour stand-off with soldiers who were demanding the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They arrested the soldiers and then later the journalists, who were handcuffed and taken to the National Capital Region Police Office in nearby Bicutan. Some of their video footage was confiscated.

CMFR says the move was unprecedented: never in the recent history of the Philippines has any government taken into custody members of the media who were on the scene to do their jobs.

According to CMFR and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an affiliate of IFJ, the government said it had wanted to ensure rebel troops were not hiding among the journalists covering the incident. But some of the reporters were well known TV anchors who would be easily identifiable to police.

CMFR says the incident will likely soften future coverage. "The arrests can only be interpreted as one more attempt, together with libel suits and other harassments, to intimidate the Philippine press into either minimal or less aggressive reporting of political events," says CMFR.

According to IFJ, Macapagal-Arroyo has publicly regretted the detention of the journalists.

Visit these links:
- CMFR: http://www.cmfr.com.ph/_alerts/2007/nov_05.html
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=5564&Language=EN
- NUJP: http://www.nujp.org/pr/pr07/prnov29-pen.html
(4 December 2007)

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