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Philippine Press Condemn Raid on Newspaper  

Philippine and international media organizations have condemned a police raid on a daily newspaper critical of the government following the president's declaration of a state of emergency Friday. They say the police action was unconstitutional and an assault on press freedom.

Several hundred members of the Philippine press, meeting Sunday, warned the country's press freedom was under threat and vowed they would not be cowed.

The journalists met a day after police raided the offices of The Daily Tribune, a newspaper critical of the government, seizing editorial materials and copies of the paper.

The Daily Tribune's publisher, Ninez Cacho Oliverez, compared the raid on her office to the martial law era of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"What they did was to raid this office without any search warrant, martial law all over again, no? Ensuring that we're not going to say anything that will be detrimental to the government," said Ninez Cacho Oliverez.

Troops were also deployed outside two of the country's largest TV networks, and a prominent political columnist was taken in for questioning, though later released.

Presidential chief of staff, Michael Defensor, defended the government's action.

"It is only because we are in an abnormal situation and we would like to protect the interests of the state that no reporting would come out to aid and abet the coup plotters or those who would want to have a violent takeover of the government," said Michael Defensor.

Mrs. Arroyo declared a state of emergency Friday, claiming the government had foiled a coup plot by members of the military and opposition groups.

The press members met Sunday to coordinate a response to the crackdown.

Benny Antiporda, president of the Alliance of Philippine Media, says a 24-hour call center will be set up to help any journalists who encounter trouble.

"This is open suppression of media practice and now we're trying to find a way to protect all our fellow journalists who are being suppressed, harassed - especially those who are hard hitters of the present administration," said Benny Antiporda.

Antiporda says journalists are willing to go to jail to defend press freedom.

"If they want to stop us, they can stop us in jail, every one of us. You want to arrest us? Okay, Arrest us all, then let's see if you have that big [a] jail for us," he said.

And Jose Torres of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines says the media there now needs international support.

"We are calling on our colleagues all over the world for solidarity because we believe that we cannot do it alone," said Jose Torres. "But we will continue, even if the government will close all the media institutions. We will continue with the Internet, with all the alternative medium we can find."

An international media organization that defends the rights of the press, Reporters Without Borders, issued a statement Saturday deploring the state of emergency, saying the government was using it as an excuse to crack down on the opposition.