Friday, August 25, 2006

And back to the Middle Ages

After briefly suspending I-Witness for showing phallic symbols which it had found offensive (see the July 2006 issue of the PJR Reports), the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is at it again. Are we going back in time?

State TV censor body suspends popular news documentary
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

For airing an episode showing individuals using drugs, a documentary program of a popular network was recently suspended by the country’s movie and television review board.

In its memorandum dated last 15 August, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) suspended the ABS-CBN Network’s documentary program The Correspondents for three consecutive weeks or three episodes.

The suspension arose from the program’s 26 June 2006 episode entitled, “Ang Pinoy Rasta (The Filipino Rasta),” which “featured the actual smoking of marijuana [of a young man] in the presence of his father who, in turn, confessed that he smoked marijuana with his son occasionally.”

Like in many countries, the use and sale of drug marijuana (cannabis) are illegal in the Philippines.

MTRCB had issued an earlier memorandum, released 10 days after the episode was aired, reprimanding the ABS-CBN for projecting, through the show, “that smoking marijuana is an enjoyable activity … sending a strong message that [it’s] okay.”

The earlier memorandum noted that the father had even said that smoking marijuana had no ill effects on his health.

Through their counsel, the show’s representatives asserted that the documentary was not about drug use, but about Rastafari, “a Jamaican religious practice adopted by some Filipinos as a way of life.” The network’s representatives said the offending portion had not been done in a manner that showed marijuana smoking as enjoyable.

Current affairs head Luchi Cruz-Valdez was quoted by national daily Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying that since the network was practicing self-regulation, the program producers refrained from showing celebrities, who are considered role models, in the controversial scene. Instead, they opted to feature the unknown Rastafarian and his father.

According to Valdez, the episode in question was aired at 1:20 a.m. and carried the Parental Guidance (PG-13) warning.

The monitoring report filed by MTRCB’s special agents on 03 July, however, asserted that “scenes [depicting] the actual use of prohibited drugs are beyond the PG classification and [therefore are] not fit for television viewing.”

The board pointed out that Presidential Decree No. 1986 (PD 1986) “clearly provides that the board … has the power to approve or disapprove, delete objectionable portions … which in [its] judgment … are objectionable for being immoral, indecent and contrary to law …”

Signed by MTRCB chairman Consoliza Laguardia, the memorandum also noted that PD 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) “prohibit the airing/public showing of scenes that tend to abet the use of prohibited drugs.”

According to the review board’s rule and regulations, materials classified as PG-13 cannot include a “depiction of, or reference to, prohibited drugs or substances and their use.”

The agents emphasized in their report that the board also received complaints from other sources about the episode.

ABS-CBN stopped the airing of Correspondents last 22 August in adherence to the said decision, which they received last 17 August.

However, in an official statement, the network reiterated, “ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs protests the suspension … [and] stands by its editorial judgment.”

Valdez said that the network had filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the suspension at the Court of Appeals last 18 August.

In other developments, representatives of UNTV 37, Ang Dating Daan (The Old Way) Productions, and Eliseo “Brother Eli” Soriano failed to attend an adjudication hearing set by MTRCB last 22 August.

The board had earlier suspended Brother Eli’s two programs Ang Dating Daan and Itanong Mo Kay Soriano (“Ask Soriano”), aired on UNTV 37, because of statements made by Soriano against Iglesia ni Cristo (“Church of Christ”) – a rival sect – the Arroyo government, and the present board.

“After being rated X, a producer can apply for reclassification and his TV material will be reviewed by a different committee,” Laguardia said, in explaining the process. (based on reports by the Inquirer News Service)

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