Oldest alliance of college editors urges PH media to unite for press freedom
MANILA, Philippine – Did you know that the first political prisoner to die in detention during martial law under the Marcos regime was a campus journalist?
Her name was Liliosa Hilao, an associate editor of the campus publication in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). Findings of the autopsy showed that the 23-year-old editor was tortured and possibly sexually abused.
In a rally on Wednesday, January 17, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) shared the story of Hilao and her historical role in defending press freedom and democracy in the Philippines. (READ: Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom)
“She’s really a Martial Law hero not only to the campus press but also to the rest of the Filipino people,” CEGP President Jose Mari Callueng said.
Members of CEGP, the oldest alliance of college editors, condemned recent actions of the government against the press, particularly the decision of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the registration of news organization Rappler.
A day after the news about the SEC revocation came out, President Rodrigo Duterte accused Rappler of being a “fake news outlet.” Malacañang has also downplayed the SEC ruling, saying that the President would have "sent the Armed Forces to their offices and padlocked them” if he really wanted to shut down Rappler.
In the past, President Duterte has also threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise. Meanwhile, after the President's relentless attacks against the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Prieto family has allowed the government to take over its Mile Long property and has sold its shares in the Philippine Daily Inquirer to businessman Ramon Ang, a friend of the President.
These attacks are reminiscent of the crackdown against campus and mainstream journalists more than 3 decades ago during the darkest chapter of Philippine history, according to CEGP.
"The move is straight out of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ textbook on building a ruthless and totalitarian dictatorship. Duterte is slowly putting death to press freedom, silencing those exposing the fully unveiled brutality of his regime that is leading to a dictatorship," CEGP said.
Alternative media also under attack
CEGP also noted that the Duterte administration has also been attacking members of the alternative media.
"Many alternative media journalists are tagged by Duterte himself as communist or members of the New People’s Army," CEGP said.
In December 2017, Sherwin de Vera, an environmental journalist from Ilocos Sur who writes a column for Northern Dispatch Weekly, was arrested "for trumped-up charges of rebellion," CEGP said.
Meanwhile, Kathyrine Cortez of media outfit Radyo ni Juan has been consistently harassed and tagged as a supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines, according to CEGP.
Student publications are also being targeted through "various forms of harassment and military surveillance," CEGP said.
"One of our member publication in Camarines Sur reported last September 2017 that they received a message from the Armed Forces of the Philippines that they are part of the watch list of Duterte’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan," CEGP said.
'Black Friday Protest for Press Freedom'
During the protest in front of the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manila on Wednesday, the campus journalists called on the press to unite and fight for press freedom.
(Let us all unite and fight for press freedom and for our democracy, which was once taken away from us. We can't lose our freedoms again.)
CEGP urged concerned citizens, campus journalists, and media practitioners "to unite and combat state-perpetuated violence and all forms of repression that target press freedom and the people’s democratic rights."
CEGP, together with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Altermidya, and Let's Organize for Democracy Integrity (LODI), will stage a protest action on January 19 dubbed "Black Friday Protest for Freedom."
There are two ways to support the action:
- Wear black shirts or black arm bands to school or your place of work.
- Join the protest at the Boy Scout Circle, the roundabout at Timog and Thomas Morato intersection in Quezon City at 6 pm.