April 16, 2021
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns the move to require media practitioners covering sessions of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in Camarines Norte to present a negative rapid antigen test before entry.
Last week, a resolution was approved during the regular session requiring a negative rapid antigen test result for all non-Sangguniang Panlalawigan personnel who wish to attend the sessions at the session hall. This includes media practitioners, guests and observers.
The resolution aims to protect the members and staff of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan against COVID-19. However, it also a clear manifestation of the failure of the Local Government Unit (LGU) to implement a comprehensive and scientific COVID-19 response in support of frontliners and essential personnel, which includes media workers.
The Duterte administration has been resorting to the same failed COVID-19 response, enforcement of which has disrupted the lives of many and bars media from playing its role as a watchdog on government.
The battle against the spread of the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to impose prior restraint. While we recognize the alarming rate of COVID-19 infection, the burden of ensuring safety protocols should not be with journalists but with the local government.
All sessions should be done publicly and should be open to all media practitioners covering the SP. It is repressive to require the media to spend P2,000 – P2,300 pesos weekly for the rapid antigen test given the financial constraint of local newsrooms.
Camarines Norte LGU should provide financial assistance and free testing to all local media covering the sessions. Their stories and reports are essential not only to inform the public but also an instrument to prevent COVID-19.
The local government also should designate media area to separate them from the guests and observers in the session hall.
NUJP reiterates its stand that the media should be treated as frontliners, hence should be covered by free routine COVID-19 tests. Despite their coverage of the spike of COVID-19 cases and related pandemic stories, the lack of support and assistance among our colleagues is glaring.
NUJP is with the media practitioners of Camarines Norte and supports their petition signed by 16 local media practitioners in the province against the repressive resolution.
As we call for support for our colleagues struck by the virus, we call as well on our colleagues to be united against media repression. Let’s stand with the Filipino people in demanding a comprehensive and scientific COVID-19 response.#