Journalists condemn late-night arson attack on tabloid’s printing press

Abante’s printing press after it was burned down. <i>Photo: Abante Tonite</i>
Abante’s printing press after it was burned down. Photo: Abante Tonite

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) today condemned a Monday attack on the printing plant of Abante Tonite, one of the country’s oldest Filipino-language tabloids.

The police said that four unidentified masked armed men arrived at the tabloid’s Parañaque City printing plant at about 1am, then set it on fire, Rappler reported. A security guard was on duty that day, but unable to stop the men from entering the plant as she was allegedly threatened at gunpoint.

The guard said she saw the men pour gasoline all over the newspapers inside the plant’s production area which they then set on fire using a lighter. The fire was extinguished by firemen at about 2:10am, though two of the plant’s employees were injured in the blaze, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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In a statement released yesterday, Abante‘s managing editor, Fernando Jadulco, said that while he could think of no reason for the attack, he suggested the arson was likely an attempt to scare staff.

“[Abante will] not be cowed by this attempt to strike fear into our reporters, editors, and staff. Our commitment to hard-hitting journalism remains unshaken.”

In its statement, the NUJP said that the attack “underscores how deeply mired in the culture of impunity our country and people have become.”

“We challenge our law enforcement agencies to prove us wrong and begin chipping away at the culture of impunity by swiftly getting the perpetrators of this attack and successfully prosecuting them,” the NUJP added.

Congressional party-list group Bayan Muna also slammed the attack in a statement released today. Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite said the fire “should not cause Abante and our media friends to back down, but instead band together and advance the right of our people for transparency and accountability.”

The local media has often been the subject of attacks, both literally and figuratively. News website Rappler is facing a multitude of charges, from cyber libel to tax evasion. Meanwhile, several journalists including Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa and Vera Files founder Ellen Tordesillas have been accused by the Duterte government in May of conspiring with opposition politicians to topple the president. Ressa and Tordesillas have denied the accusations.

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