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Government advisory threatens journalists with criminal charges if they "disobey orders" during emergencies

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Journalists and media groups in the Philippines are in uproar over an "advisory" issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) warning journalists of "criminal liabilities" should they "disobey lawful orders from government officers and personnel" during "emergencies".

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) quickly denounced the advisory as "dangerous" and "perilously broad and vague". quoted NUJP Secretary General Rowena Paraan as she pointed out the DOJ advisory failed to define the terms "emergency", "government officers and personnel", and "lawful orders". said the advisory - which was printed in capital letters - was signed by DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales and addressed to all chief executive officers of media companies and press organizations. It reads: "Please be reminded that your respective companies, networks or organizations may incur criminal liabilities under the law, if anyone of your field reporters, news gatherers, photographers, cameramen and other media practitioners will disobey lawful orders from duly authorized government officers and personnel during emergencies which may lead to collateral damage to properties and civilian casualties in case of authorized police or military operations."

The guidelines are believed to be part of the continued fallout from the Philippine media's coverage of a failed uprising led by former military officer and elected senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch critic of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in November 2007.

The NUJP's Paraan said this is a "direct threat to journalists covering emergencies and other incidents that the public need to know about."

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