Advocates band together in unity event for World Press Freedom Day
MANILA, Philippines– Advocates and journalists took to the stage to voice out relevant issues in the Philippines through songs and performances in a Freedom Festival Jam concert for World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3, at Eton Centris Walk.
Media groups including Altermidya, National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), and Rappler led the concert to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, along with other artists and advocates of the cause, despite increasing threats against the free press.
“Events like this help us remember what we fight for, why we fight for it. And it helps us remember the costs of people who fought for those freedoms, that’s why we can express ourselves now,” said former Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson and human rights lawyer Ted Te.
Irony of today
The event comes at a time when the Philippine media faces threats, especially after a handful of agencies and groups were tagged in a so-called matrix of an “oust Duterte” plot on April 22. (READ: Philippine media ‘under siege’ as it commemorates World Press Freedom Day)
Artist Mae Paner, also known as Juana Change, also pointed out the irony of the current situation of journalists who now find themselves becoming part of the stories they’re covering.
“Ako bilang isang artista ay naniniwala na ang mga journalist ay pinagtatrabaho. Imbis na sila ang nagcocover ng news, sila na ang nasa news,” she said.
(As an artist, I believe that journalists should be able to do their job. Instead of covering the news, they're in the news.)
Opposition senatorial bet Chel Diokno pointed out the administration’s trend of targeting critics and attacking institutions that seek to uphold checks and balances in the government.
“Paisa-isa nang inaatake ang mga institutsyon na nagiging check and balance sa pang-aabuso ng pamahalaan. Inuna nila ang ating senado kay Senator De Lima. Sumunod naman ang ating Supreme Court kay CJ Sereno. Sumunod ang Commission on Human Rights, tapos ang media,” he said. (READ: Rappler on latest case: Pattern of harassment has not stopped)
(They are attacking institutions that ensure check and balance against government abuses. First was the senate with Senator De Lima. Next was the Supreme Court with CJ Sereno. Next was the Commission on Human Rights, then the media.)
He warned how this trend slowly silences the voices of the people.
“Paliit nang paliit ang democratic space ng mga Pilipino (The democratic space of Filipinos is getting smaller),” he added.
The ripple effect of press freedom
Journalist Inday Espina-Varona from LODI expressed the ripple effect that follows when press freedom is under attack.
“Kailangan ng mga malulupit na gobyerno na mapatahimik ang mga mamamahayag dahil kapag wala nang nakatutok na camera sa mga extrajudicial killings, sa mga mapangalipustang pagpalayas ng mga IPs (indigenous people) sa kanayunan, maaari nang mangyari ang walang humpay pang-aabuso sa lahat ng karapatang pantao,” she said.
(Harsh governments need to silence journalists because when there will be no cameras exposing extrajudicial killings, the eviction of indigenous peoples from the countryside, unhampered abuse of all human rights will take place.)
Te also said that press freedom and freedom of expression are essential to a democracy.
“If we don’t have press freedom and freedom of expression, you can’t find out the truth. You can’t discover things that the government wants to hide and that’s the essence of democracy. You know what’s going on and you can assert your rights,” he added.
Aside from sharing of sentiments from press freedom advocates and journalists, artist groups Tubaw Collective, General Strike, Pasada, Kilusan Stepsisters, and MusikangBayan also serenaded the crowd with music tackling other relevant issues in the Philippines such as farmers’ rights, lumad killings, and contractualization. – Rappler.com
Jillian Gaiety Siervo is a Rappler intern. She is a General Academic Strand graduate from Ateneo de Manila Senior High School.