Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago has renewed her push for House Bill No. 319 or the Campus Press Freedom bill, as campus journalists, whom she described as "vanguards of academic freedom," continue to experience threats and harassment in the pursuit of their job.
Elago made the call on Saturday, March 20, during the first part of the online seminar-workshop “Kalookan Para sa Kampus Midya” organized by the Caloocan Young Leaders Initiative (CYLI), as she talked abut campus press freedom and why there is a need for legislative measures to protect it.
“In many campuses today, the student publications that continue to uphold and preserve their thrust as an alternative media, acting as vanguards of academic freedom, in particular, have so far experienced various forms of threat, harassment, and discrimination. Na hindi exempted 'yung mga campus journos sa pagdanas ng iba’t-ibang mga banta dahil sa mga content na kanilang inilalathala,” Elago said.
(Campus journos are not exempted from threats stemming from the content they publish.)
In July 2020, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) said there were almost 1,000 violations against campus press freedom since 2010.
Elago also underscored the role of campus journalism in upholding democracy in the country, especially its capability to report on community-level issues that the mainstream media sometimes fail to cover. She said that the wide reach of campus publications is one of the reasons why there is a need to protect them.
“Ganoon kalawak 'yung pwedeng maabot at kalalim 'yung pwedeng makita at maiulat ng ating mga campus journos dahil kayo ay nakakalat sa buong bansa, meron kayong kapasidad na makaalam ng mga issues sa inyong komunidad at maiulat ito sa mga tao na nasa kapangyarihan,” Elago said.
(The reach of campus publications is wide, and their reporting is comprehensive since they are spread throughout the country. They have the capacity to know the issues in the community, and to report these issues to the people in power.)
The campus press freedom bill, which Elago and other representatives from the Makabayan bloc authored, also seeks to repeal the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.
The law made it the government’s duty to protect campus journalists, especially since it was enacted in recognition of the vital role the campus press played during Martial Law. But Elago said the law has flaws that compromise press freedom.
The campus press freedom bill seeks to amend provisions in the current law on the non-mandatory collection of the publication fee, the non-mandatory establishment of student publications, and the lack of a penalty clause which allows erring administrators to be left unscathed.
The authors of the bill said these eventually became contributing factors to the growing number of violations against campus press freedom in the Philippines.
“To write is to choose. Ang inyong pagsusulat ay pagpili, at nais nating piliin 'yung landas kung saan ang boses ng kabataan, estudyante, at sektor ng edukasyon, at 'yung mga hindi pa gaanong naririnig sa ating lipunan, magagamit natin sa ating pagsusulat para malaman ang katotohanan at maipagtanggol ang kanilang karapatan,” Elago said.
(Your writing is a choice, and we want to choose the path where the voices of the youth, the students, the education sector, and those whose voices are not yet heard much, are used in our writing so that we can know the truth and we can fight for their rights.)
As of March 2021, the campus press freedom bill is still pending with the House committee on higher and technical education.
The second part of the online seminar is on March 27. MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, is a partner for the event.– Rappler.com