SWAT Team Raids Radio Station
SWAT Team Raids Radio Station
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in condemning the raid in the central provincial capital of Iloilo City by the local police force’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) squad on radio station Aksyon Radyo early Sunday morning. The NUJP reports that the Iloilo City chief of police Ruperto Floro described the tactics employed by his men as “standard operating procedure”.
The raid, which was captured on CCTV, demonstrates that Filipino security forces are improperly trained in their human rights responsibilities and lack proper restraint and clear-thinking in tense situations. NUJP says that the video footage of the incident clearly shows no resistance by station employees or the station’s security guards, and full compliance with police orders
Despite this, NUJP says the SWAT squad:
· Kicked and manhandled an unarmed
security guard who had complied with their orders to lie on
· aimed their weapons at the station’s personnel,
· ordered the station’s male employees to take off their shirts
· deleted mobile phone video footage taken by the station’s engineer on his mobile phone, and
· conducted a “tactical search” of the station that included the personal belongings of station staff.
NUJP says the raid took place after a nearby shooting incident. Seven youths hid in the building that also houses the radio station. The youths were later taken into custody by the police. But Aksyon Radyo personnel had alerted police to the presence of one of the youths and had readily opened the station entrance and introduced themselves in order to assist the police.
In response, the SWAT team continued to treat the radio station staff as suspects, even when they were clearly cooperating with police instructions and were clearly not the suspects the police were seeking. The kicking of the security guard, who was complying and was not a threat, demonstrates that the SWAT squad had overstepped the bounds of control and restraint. The deletion of the cell phone video without the owner’s permission is a clear assault on press freedom and could well be considered destruction of evidence.
IFJ Asia-Pacific said: “The ongoing culture of impunity in the Philippines in relation to the targeted killing of journalists and the alleged involvement of dozens of police in the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre of 32 journalists is a dark stain of the performance of the Filipino police authorities. It is only natural that journalists have a grave and deeply-felt mistrust when it comes to the police. The appalling aggression displayed during the incident in Iloilo City amplifies the reasons why trust between media personnel and Filipino law enforcement is at such a low.
“We join with our affiliate in demanding the Philippine National Police impose the maximum sanctions possible against the SWAT members responsible for threatening and assaulting our colleagues and for interfering with journalists going about their civic duty. We further urge the Aquino Government to take urgent steps to train its police and military forces across the country in the role of the media in a democratic society, and the need for those agencies to comply with the international legal obligations of UN Security Council Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in combat zones given the comprehensive failure to do so in the instance of the Ampatuan Massacre.”