Philippines bans some foreign journalists over Apec Bali incident

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines said on Saturday it had banned certain foreign journalists from the country over an incident last year, when President Benigno Aquino was taunted by a group of Hong Kong reporters during a visit to Indonesia.

The immigration bureau said the journalists, whom it did not name, were blacklisted on the recommendation of the intelligence services over "acts committed against the president during a summit in Bali, Indonesia".

"The rationale is that the subject is a threat to public safety and blacklisting minimises that risk," immigration bureau spokesman Elaine Tan said in a statement to AFP.

Hong Kong newspapers reported that nine journalists from the Chinese territory have been banned ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit to be hosted by the Philippines next year.

In October last year, Apec summit host Indonesia withdrew the credentials of nine Hong Kong journalists for shouting questions at the Philippine leader, insisting they had posed a security threat.

Hong Kong media said the journalists and technicians were from Now TV, RTHK and Commercial Radio.

An Aquino spokesman at the time said the journalists had "crossed the line" by aggressively questioning Aquino about a hostage siege in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead in 2010.

When an individual "shows disrespect or makes offensive utterances to symbols of Philippine authority", it is sufficient ground to ban him or her from the country, immigration spokeswoman Tan said Saturday.

"If he (or she) submits sufficient proof to reverse the blacklist, it may be lifted accordingly."

An Aquino spokesman stressed it had not specifically prevented anyone from covering the Apec summit in the Philippines in November next year.

Herminio Coloma said the presidential office, which is in charge of accrediting journalists who will cover the summit, "has not started the accreditation process for journalists".

Relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines were strained for years following a botched rescue attempt by Manila in 2010 when Hong Kong tourists were taken hostage inside a bus by a disgraced ex-Manila police officer.

In April, the two governments announced they had resolved the row.

The Manila city government issued a formal apology while the Philippines expressed "its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy".

The Philippine government also provided undisclosed financial compensation to victims and their relatives from money donated by private individuals.

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