Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Media Organizations Assail Rough Eviction Of Journalists From Dinagyang Festival

Joe Haresh Tanodra being dragged away by policemen. (Press Photographer of the Philippines / Arnold Almacen)

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 27, 2009) – Media groups have denounced how two photojournalists were forcibly ejected by policemen from covering the celebration of the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City in central Philippines.

The two photographers – Joe Jaresh Tanodra and Ricky Alejo – were physically removed from an area near the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand where journalists were covering the festival. The incident over the weekend was witnessed by hundreds of spectators and shown on television news.

The Press Photographers of the Philippines (PPP) in Iloilo has condemned the actions by the policemen and accused them; including a former police officer Dionisio Duco, the chief security of Mayor Jerry Treñas, for their brutality.

“The Press Photographers of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter condemns in the strongest term possible the callousness and insensitivity of retired Police Chief Inspector Dionisio Duco, chief security of the Iloilo City Mayor’s Office, and several policemen in physically removing internationally acclaimed photojournalist, Joe Haresh Tanodra, also president of PPP Aklan-Boracay chapter, and Ricky Alejo, of Pinoy Paparazzi from the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand while covering the festivities,” it said in a statement.

Duco‘s group reportedly evicted the two photographers after they failed to secure the proper accreditation card.

Witnesses said Tanodra was forcibly dragged out of the area in front of hundreds of shocked spectators and photojournalists. Different media groups have denounced how policemen manhandled Tanodra and demanded an apology from local officials and the authorities over the incident.

“Even if Mr. Tanodra and Mr. Alejo had failed to secure accreditation from the festival organizers to cover events at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, this does not justify the harsh treatment they suffered from the hands of Duco and his men, an act that befits only criminals and those who are threats to national security.”

“The physical removal of Mr. Tanodra from Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a blatant display of contempt and disrespect to the Fourth Estate which has been an indispensable partner of the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government in promoting Dinagyang and other tourism events in this part of the Philippines,” said Chris Fernandez, president of the PPP in Iloilo City.

Fernandez said the incident sends a wrong signal that the press can be bullied by anyone in power.

“This sends a wrong signal that the press can be bullied by anyone with power and authority from top guns to the lowly chief security officer like the brute Mr. Duco, that they can be hogtied and thrown out like pigs, or worse, can be slaughtered like the scores of journalists killed in the Philippines since the restoration of democracy in 1986,” he said.

The Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held on the fourth Sunday of January, or right after the Sinulog Festival In Cebu province and the Ati-Atihan in Aklan. It is held both to honor the Santo Nino and to celebrate the arrival Malay settlers in Panay and the subsequent selling of the island to them by the natives.

“Dinagyang may be the best tourism event in the Philippines, but if the likes of Mr. Duco are allowed to spoil the spirit of the festivities, then festival organizers – the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government – there is really nothing to be proud about it.”

“We therefore call on Mayor Jerry Treñas and Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas (the regional police chief) to mete necessary disciplinary actions on Mr. Duco and the policemen involved in this unfortunate incident, without prejudice to our right to file appropriate legal actions not only on the harm that Mr. Tanodra has suffered but also on the damages incurred on his camera,” Fernandez said.

Remy Pampolina, of the PPP in Manila, said different media groups also denounced the incident. “This is not good, we are condemning this incident,” he told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)

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