Journalists and media organizations today (Dec. 6) asked the Supreme Court (SC) to set aside its decision to forbid live broadcast of the Ampatuan Massacre trial.
Filed by the Public Interest Law Center in behalf of petitioners from media organizations such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, ABS-CBN, BusinessWorld, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), GMA-7, Manila Times, Philippine National Police Press Corps and TV5, the motion sought to compel the High Court to reconsider its Oct. 23 resolution, and to sit down with media groups and journalists to draft guidelines for live media coverage as what it did after partially allowing it in June 2011.
SC’s Oct. 23 resolution, granting the motion for reconsideration filed June 27, 2011 by primary accused Andal Ampatuan Jr., argued the right of the accused should come primary over the public’s right to know.
The said resolution in effect junked SC’s June 14, 2011 ruling. Through the new resolution, SC instead directed the filming of the proceedings using closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, to be transmitted real-time to viewing areas in courts nearest to families of the massacre victims.
The petitioners argued, contrary to what SC said in its resolution, “the right of an accused to fair trial is not incompatible to right to free press”, and widespread publicity through live media coverage therefore does not in itself violate the right of accused to a fair trial.
Petitioners also called the SC directive to install CCTV footage in place of live broadcast an “unsatisfactory compromise”. According to the petition, it “delimits the viewing possibilities to those who have the time and opportunity to go to the designated courts where CCTVs have been placed”, and could in turn disenfranchise the public.
Media organizations have been pushing for live coverage of the case proceedings of the Maguindanao Massacre, where 32 of the 58 victims are journalists and media workers who joined the ill-fated convoy that was supposed to file the candidacy of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.
Magundadatu’s decision to run against the Ampatuans allegedly led to the incident, now known as the single most brazen attack against journalists in recent years.