Hong Kong journalists who shouted queries at Aquino removed from Philippines' blacklist

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines has lifted an entry ban against nine Hong Kong journalists who shouted questions at President Benigno Aquino last year, a government spokesman said Tuesday after a media backlash.

The journalists had also been expelled from an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Indonesia last year after they aggressively questioned Mr Aquino over a 2010 Manila hostage crisis that left eight Hong Kong residents dead.

Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Elaine Tan told AFP the ban was lifted because Mr Aquino was not put through another bout of aggressive questioning at the Apec summit in Beijing earlier this month. "After a re-evaluation, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency said they (Hong Kong journalists) are no longer considered as threats and the ban was lifted effective today," she added.

They had been placed on the bureau's blacklist last June because they were considered a "threat to public safety" following "acts committed against the president" at the Bali summit.

However, the Philippine foreign department subsequently said it had not been consulted about imposing the entry ban, and demanded a review.

The blacklisting last week prompted swift criticism, with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines saying the move sent a "chilling message".

"If the government's intelligence agency does not like the way you ask questions, you may be labelled a public safety threat and blacklisted from the Philippines," the group said.

The journalists were blacklisted as the Philippines and Hong Kong were repairing strained ties, and ahead of the Philippines' hosting of the Apec summit next year.

In August 2010, eight members of a Hong Kong tour group were killed in a botched rescue after they were seized by a disgraced former policeman in Manila.

The two governments announced in April that they have resolved the row after the Manila city government issued a formal apology and the Philippine government expressed "sorrowful regret and profound sympathy".

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