(UPDATE) PDI sorry for caption on burka photo

Posted at 05/10/2012 1:39 PM | Updated as of 05/11/2012 10:17 AM

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) has apologized for a caption on a front page photo that labeled a Muslim woman wearing a burka as a security risk.

The photo, which was published in PDI’s May 9, 2012 issue, showed a woman in a burka shaking President Benigno Aquino III’s hand, which was captioned, “SECURITY RISK.”

In a statement posted on its website, PDI apologized to those offended by the photo caption.

"We say so sorry to those who have taken offense over the caption head (“Security Risk?”) for the photo of President Benigno Aquino III shaking the hand of a Muslim woman garbed in a burqa, which appeared on Page 1 of the May 9 issue of the Inquirer."

"We are especially sorry to have hurt the feelings of our Muslim brothers and sisters."

The caption, which was published in the first edition of the paper, was previously deemed “blatantly bigoted” and “insensitive” by journalists and photographers.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it is disturbed “that the paper cleared such a blatantly bigoted caption, especially after the firestorm of criticism it reaped in the wake of the Demetrio Vicente fiasco, when PDI ran a series of unflattering photos of the stroke victim when he appeared at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona and labeled it ‘Character witness.’”

“We are also bothered by the thought that because of the caption writer’s irresponsibility, the blame might be unfairly laid on the photographer whose byline accompanies the photograph,” it added.

The NUJP said the PDI owes an apology and an explanation to the public, to Muslims and to its own staff photographer.

Similarly, the Philippine Center for Photojournalism (PCP) said the photo caption is “uncalled for, insensitive, and even libelous.”

“Although the burka is frowned upon in some Western societies, it remains to be part of the culture of Islamic societies. We believe labeling a dress a security risk does not take into account the nuances of the Islamic culture,” PCP chairman Fernando Sepe Jr. said in a letter to the PDI.

He added: “It is also an affront to the minority Muslim population of this country that a symbol of Muslim culture is labeled outright a security risk and further fuels the stereotyping of our Muslim brothers as terrorists.”

In the letter, Sepe urged the PDI to exercise a retraction and print a public apology to the offended parties.

(Disclosure: Sepe is the multimedia editor of ABS-CBNnews.com. )

The PDI was previously castigated by media for publishing 4 unflattering photos of stroke victim Demetrio Vicente, who was a witness in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Various groups including defense lawyers of the Chief Justice said the photos were meant to mock Vicente.

Javier Vicente Rufino, director for mobile of the Inquirer group, later said: “It has come to our attention that our photo of witness Demetrio Vicente on our front page today has offended some of our readers. For this we sincerely apologize. It was not our intention to disparage Mr. Vicente in any way.”