The Philippine National Police (PNP) clarified that no arrest warrant has been issued against a photojournalist accused of posting real-time footage of the Marawi operations.
During the Presidential Task Force on Media Security meeting on Thursday, June 22, police officials debunked rumors that there is a standing arrest order against Filipino photojournalist Jes Aznar.
Rumors about the warrant apparently started when blogger RJ Nieto of Thinking Pinoy recently condemned Aznar for supposedly posting a real-time video.
Nieto alleged that the video in question “revealed sniper positions” and “has likely compromised the safety and tactical advantage of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) snipers.”
Citing the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, Nieto then warned Aznar that he “can be arrested anytime… for aiding and abetting the Maute rebels.”
For his part, Aznar — whose work has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other international media outlets — insisted that the video in question was posted long after it was taken.
Despite this, criticism against Aznar has not stopped.
Joe Torres of the National Press Club (NPC) said that Aznar “has been maliciously attacked by netizens and now fears for his safety.”
“What is happening to Aznar can have a chilling effect and can happen to other media workers. We don’t want that,” said Presidential Task Force on Media Security Executive Director Joel Sy Egco.
In a Facebook post, Aznar cautioned Nieto: “Let me remind the gentleman, that these kinds of attacks to the press are outright dangerous. Especially for us who are covering this event and are actually inside the conflict zone.”
He added that members of the media understand the dangers of covering conflict zones and have “a sworn duty to keep the public informed.”
Other media groups also condemned the attacks against Aznar, expressing concern over the safety of other journalists covering the Marawi siege.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned Thinking Pinoy and Nieto for “endangering a journalist” based on “unfounded reasons.”
The NUJP also urged authorities “to protect Mr. Aznar from these threats and to assist him should he seek redress and accountability for those who seek to put him in danger.”
The Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP), likewise, “denounced the repeated attacks on media practitioners who have been bravely doing their duty in the midst of dangerous situations.”
“We demand an end to the vicious attacks and the false information designed to tarnish the reputation of journalists,” it added.