SLOW BOAT TO FREEDOM AND SAFETY A police sweep of the Filipino community in Sandakan drove its residents into “extreme fear” forcing them to escape into the night boarding whatever available boat that would take them. An initial wave of 400 evacuees from Sabah arrived in Sulu on Friday. A thousand more are expected in the next few days. KARLOS MANLUPIG/INQUIRER MINDANAO


 Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM) is exceedingly disgusted by the official action of the government of Malaysia in prohibiting Filipino press men from covering its ongoing war campaign against the 200 Filipino bravehearts fighting for the rights of Sultan Kiram in Sabah.

The justification of Malaysia that Filipino mediamen misreported on the incidents in Sabah is unacceptable.

In fact, the ban against the Filipino media has been implemented, although unofficially, since the crisis in Sabah began. 

Misreporting is not in the dictionary of press freedom that is guaranteed under Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Largely and by large, the Philippine media has been reporting more about the sufferings and miseries of Filipinos who are fleeing Sabah because of the ongoing battle.

It was from the accounts of the escapees that the information came telling that Malaysian forces are even ordering Filipinos who are unarmed to run as fast as they could as they were being shot at.

This is torture at the highest level.

It is difficult to gather information from incidents like this and errors cannot be avoided.  The offense against the truth will happen all the more if there is prohibition in coverage like what Malaysia government is doing.

Obviously, Malaysia government has been put to shame before the international community when the Philippine press reported about tortures committed by its policemen and soldiers, about the mismatch of fire power being used against 200 men, about its arrogance to respect the fact that there is no legal support for its hold over Sabah, etc.

What Malaysia wants is to sanitize the reports that are favorable to it.  It cannot impose the same on Malaysia media. Much more that it cannot impose it on the media in the Philippines that is so far much more decent than Malaysia in respecting the freedom of the press.

In wars like the one in Sabah, much more mistakes will happen if the media will rely for information only from the military and police officials who tend to spin to satisfy its propaganda requirement.

Malaysia government must know it cannot invent the truth.
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