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Journalists, media workers harassed in Manila demolition

(CMFR/IFEX) – Local anti-riot police detained and manhandled a group of journalists and media workers during the demolition of an allegedly illegal settlement in San Juan City on 11 January 2012. San Juan is a city within the Philippines' National Capital Region (Metro Manila).

Lady Ann Salem and other members of the media group Tudla Productions reported that some police officers tried to stop them from taking video footage and photographs of the clash between the city demolition team and residents of a settlement in Corazon de Jesus village, San Juan City. The police were from the Eastern Police District.

The San Juan City government ordered the demolition. It plans to build its new city hall on the contested land. Residents refused to leave the area and transfer to a resettlement site somewhere in Rizal province. The so-called illegal settlers often resist relocation, arguing that the relocation sites are often far from their places of work and their children's schools.

Salem said one of Tudla's member-trainees, Shane David, who is also a University of the Philippines mass communication student, was arrested and brought to a police precinct along with residents of Corazon de Jesus village. A tweet from Salem said that the police released David only after journalists from Pinoy Weekly and Bulatlat negotiated with police.

Salem said a police officer (surnamed Abella) also stopped her from taking footage of the demolition. Salem identified herself as a journalist but Abella taunted her saying "Tudla, is that media?" Abella blocked her way again and then tried to confiscate her camera. The police officer stopped only when Salem threatened to file charges against him. (Salem was able to record the incident.)

Another Tudla member, Chantal Eco, was about to take a photograph of the arrest of an injured resident when a police officer approached her. The officer asked if she was a member of the press, and what her affiliations were. When she identified herself as a member of Tudla, the officer again asked "Is that media?", while an officer surnamed De Los Reyes grabbed her camera. When she insisted on her right to cover the incident, the officers tried to handcuff her saying they needed to confirm her identity with "MBC" and "NPC".

Eco and Salem (whom the former called for help) tried to recover the camera. De los Reyes returned the camera only after another policeman ordered him to do so.

Salem said Tudla is thinking of filing a complaint against the police.

Tudla Productions has been documenting the plight of the residents of Corazon de Jesus village since 2010. Last January 2011, during a failed attempt to demolish the same settlement, Salem and colleague Godson Escopete were also harassed by members of the anti-riot police. Escopete was arrested for taking footage in the area.

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