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Benigno Aquino

Hong Kong journalists blacklisted by Philippines after questioning Aquino at Apec summit

Nine journalists who questioned president Benigno Aquino apparently blacklisted by agency, but presidential media office denies it

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 November, 2014, 2:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 5:21pm

A ban may have been imposed on nine Hong Kong journalists that would block them from entering the Philippines to report on next year's Apec summit.

The nine were said to have "heckled" the country's president at last year's meeting by asking questions about the 2010 Manila bus hostage tragedy, a Philippine government letter showed.

Six reporters from Now TV, two from Commercial Radio and another from RTHK were "blacklisted", according to the letter, apparently issued by the country's National Intelligence Coordinating Agency to its Bureau of Immigration.

But the presidential media office denied there was a ban.

"According to Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison, there is no such 'blacklist' of journalists who are denied entry to the Philippines on account of their actions during the Apec summit in Bali, Indonesia, [in October] last year," Herminio Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said yesterday.

One of the journalists, Now TV cameraman Eric Lee Kwok-keung, came to know of the alleged ban, purportedly in force since May, when he was turned away at Manila airport on Thursday and had to return to Hong Kong.

Lee received the letter from Philippine Airlines, which he was travelling with. It showed the coordinating agency as requesting that the reporters be barred from entering the Philippines to cover the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next year for harassing President Benigno Aquino. "We hereby include the above named subjects in the bureau's blacklist with remarks: 'Undesirability'," the letter read.

Lee said he visited the country in December without incident.

Commercial Radio said one of its reporters named had merely registered for Apec last year but was not sent in the end.

All three broadcasters said the reporters were doing their job when they asked Aquino about the 2010 incident in which eight Hongkongers died after a sacked policeman hijacked their tour bus in Manila.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association described the alleged blacklist as "very unwise and uncivilised", saying the authorities were apparently retaliating against the journalists who covered Apec. In that incident, they were hauled away and had their media passes confiscated after they fired questions at Aquino as he walked past a non-restricted area of the Bali venue.

They asked Aquino if he intended to meet Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, and if he would apologise to relatives of hostages who died. Aquino did not reply. He later told reporters in Bali that he found the treatment of "very aggressive" Hong Kong journalists to be "appropriate", saying he would have done the same in a similar situation.

The three broadcasters will issue a joint letter to the Chief Executive's Office and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Hong Kong calling on them to follow up on the matter. They also plan to write to the Philippine consulate.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said the Immigration Department was working on the issue.