BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Wearing black shirts, members of the media, progressive organizations, and representatives from the Catholic Church joined the nationwide protest action dubbed as “Black Friday for Press Freedom” at the Fountain of Justice here on Friday, January 19.
About 50 attendees called for the government to uphold press freedom as they held streamers bearing messages like “Defend Press Freedom,” “No to Media Crackdown,” “Resist,” “Fight Tyranny,” “No to Dictatorship,” “Stand with Rappler,” “We will not be Silenced,” and “Don’t Gag the Press.”
The group also lighted candles and staged a noise barrage at the busy thoroughfare.
Fr. Chris Gonzales, head of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Bacolod, likened the present situation to an ugly person who hates to see his reflection at the mirror.
“It’s not the fault of the mirror that you are ugly, as it only reflects your true physical being,” he said.
He said the media only reports what it sees on its surroundings, adding, “if it is horrible, it’s not its fault as it is only telling the truth.”
For her part, Inday Espina-Varona, convenor of media and artists alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), said the government is trying to silence the media because they have a plan to change the Constitution “to deprive our basic human rights.”
The government claimed this (the proposed constitutional amendments) is to eradicate poverty, but the truth is, they want to give the nation to the foreigners, she said.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter said in a statement that “in the past days, we’re hounded by the news about our colleagues in the media industry – the revocation of Rappler’s registration by the Securities and Exchange Commission due to its alleged foreign ownership and the shutting down of Interaksyon.com. This, in a way, is demoralizing.”
The group added it is clear harassment and intimidation to the media.
The statement said the President had publicly illustrated his dislike and distrust to the media especially those who are reporting critical stories about the administration.
He went as far as calling Rappler a fake news site after it reported the alleged intervention of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go in the P15 billion warship deal.
“This is a blatant attempt to undermine the role of the media in uncovering the truth, dismissing it as malicious propaganda thrown at the administration,” it added.
The group said they won’t be intimidated and not be silenced, as they call on their colleagues to remain steadfast.
“Let’s do our jobs and side with the truth. We should stand together and defend our press freedom. Afterall it’s our duty to remain as watchdogs, and not as lapdogs,” the statement said.
Also joining the rally was Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros, which called on the government to uphold press freedom.
The protest was capped by the chanting of “Ang media, ang bayan, tuloy pa rin ang laban.” – Rappler.com
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