NUJP to INC: Issue public apology to media hurt during protest

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The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is calling on the leadership of the Iglesia ni Cristo to publicly apologize to a cameraman and a reporter who were harassed my members of the religious organization during last week's protest.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Apologize publicly.

That's what the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) wants leaders of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to do after two members of the media — Melchor Pinlac, a cameraman from ABS-CBN, and Olan Bola, a reporter from dzBB — were harassed during the protests held over the weekend.

In a statement posted on its website on Wednesday (September 2), the NUJP said: "It was the responsibility of the religious group’s leaders to rein in their followers."

NUJP said there were also reports of motorists and passersby being similarly harassed.

"For this, the leadership of the INC is primarily to blame," the NUJP said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' Paul Garcia, the cameraman said the crowd told him he was biased and that he should leave.

He added people stepped on his feet and that someone hit the right side of his face. He said he was kicked and punched repeatedly.

In the interview, the cameraman said he was sure that those who hit him were INC members.

He added he was not angry at the INC but only at those who hurt him. He also said that he was thinking about pressing charges.

The NUJP decried the acts of violence inflicted on the media people.

It said: "It is perhaps inevitable that some quarters may feel, rightly or wrongly, that a media outfit or practitioner may be biased against an issue they feel strongly about. However, not this or any perceived slight, for that matter, can ever justify a physical assault against media practitioners."

It also called out the INC leadership: "Whatever feelings the INC or its members may have towards particular media outfits, this does not give them the license to assault journalists who are merely performing their duty to record the unfolding events. The INC leadership, in particular, should know this since, after all, they do operate a media network themselves."

The NUJP also said it was "infuriating" to see government officials thanking the INC for a "peaceful" protest.

The NUJP said: "We demand that the police act speedily and directly should [the cameraman] and any other colleagues who may have been harassed or hurt during the protest choose to file a complaint."

It added: "We also call on the leadership of the INC, if they believe in fairness and justice, to issue a public apology to Mr. Pinlac and Mr. Bola, as well as their networks, and ensure their members’ cooperation should our colleagues choose to take legal action against those who assaulted them."

CNN Philippnines' Paul Garcia contributed to this report.