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A new brouhaha has arisen over a 32 x 8 foot mural commissioned by the National Press Club of the Philippines for its Headline Restaurant done by a hitherto little known group called the "Neo-Angono Artists Collective. " After NPC paid P900,000.00 for it, and caused a number of alterations to the work just before it was unveiled last week by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Manila, the Neo-AC are crying "censorship." Philippine Daily Inquirer's screaming banner headline on the matter is FREEDOM MURAL DEFILED--Artists Outraged by NPC Censorship. It's the usual hyperbole the paper needs to sell it's many ad pages of cell phone load, but the intellectual property rights issues that have been raised involve matters of artistic and press freedom that ought to be considered and addressed.
Neo-AC's President, Richard Gappi, also published a Protest Letter and told PDI that "the most terrible" change made by their client was painting "a hideous bird monster in a cage" over the statement of the International Federation of Journalists, which had apparently been reproduced in the mural as newspaper article being read by Jose Rizal at the very center of the mural. Here is that IFJ Statement in full:
New anti-terror laws threaten press freedom: PhilippinesFirst let me address the purely journalistic aspects of this statement.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about the effect a new anti-terrorism law will have on press freedom in the Philippines.
According to local news reports the new law, known as the Human Security Act, was brought into effect on July 15 and includes provisions for the phone tapping and detention of suspects for three days without charge.
Despite government assurances that the law will not be used against political opponents or dissenting voices, IFJ affiliate the Nation Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) says it remains unclear whether journalists will be considered accessories to terrorism if they report the statements of terror suspects.
IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said the new law could easily be used as an excuse to harass journalists.
“If the government cannot assure the international community that the safety of journalists and their right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the Philippines’ constitution, are protected under this new law, it should be repealed,” Park said.
According to reports, three politicians filed a bill in the House of Representatives last week seeking to repeal the law, which activists believe to be unconstitutional.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a vocal supporter of the US-led war on terrorism, insists the law is necessary to combat Al-Qaeda-linked militants who have allegedly blown up passenger buses, telecommunications towers and power lines in the Philippines.
“Terrorism is undoubtedly a threat in the modern world, but it is important to ensure the fight against terror does not provide an excuse for the suppression of free speech,” Park said.
“The people of the Philippines have the right to a free, unbiased press and it is the responsibility of their government to ensure this press is protected.”
It is obvious that neither IFJ nor the NUJP have even bothered to read or study the Human Security Act of 2007. They express concern about "phone tapping" of journalists and report that they are unclear about the possibility that journalists will be charged as "terrorist accessories" when they quote statements of terrorists suspects.
What a laugh! I wonder what could possibly be unclear about Section 7 of that law.
Actually, I would not mind it one bit if the Human Security Act of 2007 were repealed today since no such restrictions are even present in RA4200, the Anti-Wiretapping Law of 1965. Moreover, it is important to note that under HSA 2007, it requires the written order of a special division of the Court of Appeals to undertake wiretapping and surveillance operations against legitimate terrorist suspects, whereas such a thing could be done under RA4200 with Court Orders from a mere Regional Trial Court!
SEC. 7. Surveillance of Suspects and Interception and Recording of Communications. – The provisions of Republic Act No. 4200 (Anti-wire Tapping Law) to the contrary notwithstanding, a police or law enforcement official and the members of his team may, upon a written order of the Court of Appeals, listen to, intercept and record, with the use of any mode, form, kind or type of electronic or other surveillance equipment or intercepting and tracking devices, or with the use of any other suitable ways and means for that purpose, any communication, message, conversation, discussion, or spoken or written words between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist organization, association, or group of persons or of any person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.
Provided, That surveillance, interception and recording of communications between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, journalists and their sources and confidential business correspondence shall not be authorized.
Completely ignored too by IFJ, NUJP, and Neo-AC are no less than nine successive provisions , Sections 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 of HSA 2007 which regulate the conduct of such wiretapping and surveillance operations and levies fines and imprisonment penalties on law enforcement officers for the most trivial violations, like failing to keep a log book or failing to inform suspects that they have been surveilled!
Among the most amazing of these provisions is the requirement that the person under surveillance must be informed of the surveillance, if after thirty days no charge of terrorism has been filed against him or her! The information includes all the records and data captured, as well as the identities of the surveillance team, which can then be used to sue the law enforcement officers and put them in jail. Failure to notify such suspects after thirty days of surveillance can result in up to 8 years imprisonment for the law enforcement officials concerned!
The Human Security Act is not an Anti Terrorism Law at all but a TERRORIST BILL OF RIGHTS. There are in fact only four provisions that penalize terrorists and terrorist organizations in the law, whilst over forty provisions contain fines and imprisonment for the law enforcers!
It is obvious that IFJ, NUJP and Neo-AC are talking not from the point of view of Press Freedom at all, but from PURE IGNORANCE of the Law.
Regarding the intellectual property rights aspect of today's tempest in a teapot, it seems quite clear that the mural is a commissioned work, for which the National Press Club paid nearly a million pesos, and it has not been denied that some kind of approval process was agreed upon for changes and alterations. I have not seen that contract, so it remains to be seen what legal fallout there may be regarding the various changes that were made. However, the statement to the PDI by Neo-AC chairman Wire Tuazon that they will not insist on restoring their original work and are content "to drumbeat about how we were treated" indicates that they had indeed sold their rights to the work lock, stock and barrel. Upon discovering unacceptable " political" undertones to the various features of the work, the NPC saw fit to alter it since it is installed in the NPC headquarters restaurant in Manila and it is they that have to live with the mural's clear ideological and political bias.
The Intellectual Property Rights Code (PDF) is likewise apparently unknown or unfamiliar to the artists. This is not about freedom but the usual victimology of our leftist poltiical classes.
Artistic and Press Freedom have nothing to do with it, try as hard as the Philippine Daily Innuendo might to make such a case. The mural is a droll caricature, a piece of audio-visual propaganda inspired by manifestae from the the Utrecht Space Station foisted on the National Press Club, and I would not be surprised if it were removed altogether eventually.
Press Freedom is alive and well in the Philippines, and not just among Leftists who think they have a monopoly on that sacred right and freedom.
Please read the friggin' laws!
From the purely aesthetic perspective, I fail to see how the left side of the mural is supposed to depict "an idyllic community while on the right side is the busy street of Manila." Heck it all looks the same to me. But check out the Protest Letter of the Neo-AC for a comparison of the Before and After alterations. I can't rally blame them for the overnight clumsiness of the changes, though I must say that "hideous bird in a cage" replacement for the IFJ's uninformed statements was either deliciously ironic or just plain mean! However, I do not agree with getting rid of the alibata "K" tattoo on Andres Bonifacio's arm, and putting an entirely irrelevant red heart with an arrow through it. Maybe the Collective should just start making its own murals and donate their work to the CPP NPA or the Abu Sayyaf for fund raising activities on You Tube.