ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) lauded their colleagues in Cagayan de Oro City for standing against allegations that they and other groups are communist fronts.
On Monday, May 27, a black streamer red-tagging the NUJP and other organizations was draped on the fence of Cagayan de Oro’s Press Freedom Monument at Vicente de Lara Park. The incident happened on the first day of the city’s Press Freedom Week.
In response, members of various media organizations took turns in tearing and setting the streamer alight while vowing to remain united and undeterred by the claims thrown against them.
The NUJP described the response of its local chapter “as swift as it was appropriate.”
“The example set by the media of Cagayan de Oro is proof of what we have maintained all along, that the united community of independent Filipino journalists is capable of holding back the darkness that seeks to engulf us once again,” the NUJP said in a statement on Tuesday, May 28.
It added that the timing of the incident indicated it was intended to suppress freedom of the press, and to “warn all journalists to go easy on critical reportage and commentary.”
Local NUJP chairperson Pamela Jay Orias slammed the red-tagging incident, saying “a critical press serves the public interest and should therefore not be subjected to attacks.”
The other groups tagged as communist fronts included the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees.
Warning to all journalists
This is not the first time that journalists and human rights defenders in Northern Mindanao have been linked to communist rebels.
In February, press freedom and human rights advocates denounced an anonymous list distributed to journalists in Cagayan de Oro that tagged groups and individuals as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Among the tagged individuals were lawyers and journalists. (READ: Rights group, journalists denounce recent red-tagging in Cagayan de Oro)
The document, written in Bisaya, said, “Here is the list of several members of the Communist Party of the Philippines here in our city that are aspiring to wrestle the government.”
Despite these attacks on the press, CEGP national president Daryl Angelo Baybado asserted that journalists will continue to report what needs to be reported.
“We’ve had enough of the attacks launched by the government against the press. As vanguards of truth…we’ll need to vow to become more true to our commitment of serving our purpose – to fight tyranny and to let people know the truth,” he said.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, journalists and human rights groups have decried attacks against press freedom which have escalated in the Philippines.
Amid the threats, the Philippines slid one spot in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 134th out of 180 countries. – Rappler.com
Maria Victoria Te is a Rappler mover in Cagayan de Oro City. She is a Grade 12 student of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan and editor-in-chief of The Squire Publication.