The Philippines' broadcast industry on Monday pledged to deny air time to "terrorist" groups after a bitter complaint from the armed forces that
some segments of the media were serving as mouthpieces to enemies of the state.
Broadcasters Association of the Philippines (KBP) president Ruperto Nicdao reminded television and radio networks that their licenses are covered by
franchise laws that the government may summarily revoke for broadcasts that may jeopardize the "security of the state".
Meanwhile, President Gloria Arroyo's spokesman Ignacio Bunye said on DZBB radio on Monday that the broadcast industry's regulatory agency, the
National Telecommunications Commission, "forbids the live airing of interviews that contain messages bordering on seditious."
The Philippines, which overthrew the military-backed Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in a bloodless "people power" revolt 19 years ago, prides itself
in having the freest press in Asia.
However, the military has complained about broadcast networks giving regular air time to the communist New People's Army (NPA) and the militant
Islamic group Abu Sayyaf, both considered by Manila's military ally the United States as "foreign terrorist organizations."
Communist guerrilla spokesman Gregorio Rosal speaks in telephone interviews aired almost daily by the country's top two television networks.
A Manila radio station meanwhile allowed an Abu Sayyaf leader to read out a statement that claimed credit for the series of bombings in Manila and the
southern Philippines last month that killed 12 people and injured 151 others.
Several press organizations have protested at proposals to restrict interviews with these organizations, which were proposed by the military
leadership as part of a comprehensive anti-terrorism bill that is now being debated in Congress.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines alleged that this would infringe on press freedom.
"We have been telling our members to avoid contacts with proven terrorist groups whose criminal activities are known," said Nicdao, concurrent
president of Manila Broadcasting Co. He spoke over the network's flagship DZRH radio.
He said allowing these groups air time could give them the opportunity to broadcast "coded messages" that could threaten national security.
Nicdao said the self-regulating KBP is reviewing its radio code of conduct, which does not have specific sanctions for broadcasting "terrorist"
It will be revised "to include appropriate sanctions as well as safeguards regarding interviews with terrorist groups," he added.
For the meantime, Nicdao reminded members that "the franchises given to us by Congress are laws that contain a provision that 'you should never
allow the security of the state to be jeopardized.'"
But Nicdao also urged the military leadership to hold regular dialogue with broadcast executives and to specify which armed groups with political
objectives should be considered a "terrorist group."
This is a "brilliant" move to stop worldwide terrorisim. The US should adopt similar ideas for dealing with the american media.