Statement of the Commission on Human Rights denouncing the reported confiscation of a photojournalist’s equipment in Silang, Cavite

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STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION DIVISION Commission on Human Rights – Central Office

The Commission on Human Rights condemns the reported confiscation of the belongings of a photojournalist in Silang, Cavite on 20 April 2024. Pursuant to our mandate and commitment to take a more active stance in protecting the rights of media workers, the CHR has deployed a Quick Response Operation to ascertain the details of the incident and conduct an investigation. We have also been notified of the incident through our Alisto! Alert Mechanism, a platform where media workers can directly inform the CHR on media-related incidents.

According to the report of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Jose Monsieur Santos, a photojournalist and a member of the Filipino Freelance Journalists’ Guild, was covering a land dispute when private guards fenced off the area. This encounter with the residents of Tartaria escalated and led to the confiscation of personal property, including Santos’ equipment.

It must be noted that Santos had communicated with the security agency that he is part of the media. As of writing, his belongings are yet to be returned.

Acts which directly impede upon the media workers’ ability to efficiently carry out their duties to deliver the truth to the public, such as the confiscation of their media equipment, bring forth a critical implication to the free movement of information in a democratic society. We remind all authorities, including security agencies, that similar practices undermine the current efforts of the State to protect the freedom of the press.

The Commission urges for the immediate return of Santos’ belongings. The Commission takes this opportunity to urge all relevant government agencies to act on this incident, as a collective effort to fulfil the State commitment to safeguard the rights of all Filipinos, including media workers, and to hold those who are accountable under the eyes of the law.

We emphasise that the confiscation of media equipment not only hampers every journalists’ freedom of speech, but also jeopardises the very information that they are able to identify based on their data gathering process. Any attempt to further cultivate a culture of fear amongst journalists adversely impacts the safety of every media worker in the country and is an outright obstruction to the right of every Filipino to fact-based information.

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