Intl media group condemns assault on Bicol journalist

An international media group on Tuesday condemned the assault on a Bicol-based journalist by the brother of a mayor in Sorsogon province in Bicol last weekend.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on Philippine authorities to provide security to Roberto Labalan after he was attacked by Joseph Yap III.
Citing information from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the IFJ said Yap allegedly punched Labalan outside a local coffee shop that is frequented by journalists in Sorsogon City last Sept. 23.
Yap’s attack supposedly stemmed from a report that was published in “Sorsogon Now,” where Labalan is the editor. Labalan is also a former stringer for GMA-7.
“Acts of retaliation against media reporting in the public interest are of serious concern and highlight the incredibly dangerous nature of reporting in the Philippines” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park, in an article on the IFJ website.

“We stand with the NUJP in calling on the authorities in Sorsogon province to ensure the safety of Labalan and to immediately investigate Yap in relation to the attack,” Park added.

Yap is a brother of Prieto Diaz town Mayor Joeclyn Yap-Lelis.
Initial reports showed Labalan was speaking with media personnel and government officials outside the coffee shop at 7:15 a.m. on September 23, when Yap approached him.
He supposedly asked Labalan why he attacked him in the newspaper, then punched him, grazing him on the left cheek.
While Yap threw more punches, Labalan dodged them until cooler heads intervened. Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee reportedly was among those who witnessed the incident.
The NUJP said Labalan, a member of its national directorate, had filed an incident report before the Philippine National Police in Sorsogon City.
The IFJ said the article published in “Sorsogon Now” raised questions about a government road project where Yap is the contractor.
“In the article, which ran on August 7, alleged irregularities about the project’s outcome were exposed when the outcome of Yap’s project, which cost P300 million and yielded a 500-meter road, was compared to one in another town with the same budget that resulted in a 700-meter road and a line canal,” it said.
IFJ also noted the NUJP had said this is the second time Yap has assaulted a journalist. It also cited reports that Yap may have been armed when he assaulted Labalan.
“The attack came just over a week after two motorcycle-riding men went to the house of Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Julie Alipala, also a member of the NUJP national directorate, seemingly with intent to threaten or harm her,” it said.
Earlier, the NUJP condemned the attack on Labalan.
“This incident is yet one more example of how impunity perpetuates itself in this country, courtesy of a system of governance that relies on political expediency and family ties. Apparently Yap is one of those who feel kinship to persons of authority entitles him to that same authority and the power to use – or abuse – it as he sees fit,” it said,

“Coupled with government apathy, this is why journalists around the country and most especially in the provinces continue to be harassed, threatened, assaulted and killed with hardly anyone called to account. And while we’re at it, this, too, is why corruption continues to flourish,” it added.

The NUJP demanded that authorities in Sorsogon ensure the safety of Labalan and assist him as he pursues a complaint he intends to file against Yap.
“We also demand that they investigate Yap thoroughly in light of the fact that this is the second time he has assaulted a journalist – the first being the late Mark Mella – and reports he might have been armed when he assaulted our director,” it said.
Original article is published on GMA News on September 29, 2012.
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