obituary

Former AP Manila chief Arnold Zeitlin dies at 91

Kaycee Valmonte

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Former AP Manila chief Arnold Zeitlin dies at 91

JOURNALIST. Arnolc Zeitlin was the Associated Press bureau chief in Manila during Martial Law and was among the foreign journalists expelled by the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos during that time.

Arnold Zeitlin's blog/AZ's Newsroom

During the Marcos regime, the renowned American journalist was kicked out of the country for supposed 'malicious, false reporting.' The dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos accused him of allegedly endangering 'the security and prestige of the country.'

MANILA, Philippines – Veteran journalist and former Associated Press (AP) Manila bureau chief Arnold Zeitlin has died. He was 91.

Zeitlin passed “peacefully in his sleep” in Fairfax, Virginia, on December 26, Peace Corps Worldwide said in a post on its website on Friday night, December 29. Zeitlin was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana in the early 1960s prior to his journalism career.

Zeitlin held the helm of AP’s Manila bureau from 1973 to 1976. He was the first foreign correspondent kicked out by Ferdinand Marcos Sr. following coverage of the fighting between government forces and rebels.

Among the first affected by the late dictator’s regime was the Philippines’ free press – reportage was censored, media outlets were shut down, and journalists were targeted in the process.

Zeitlin, who was also assigned in AP bureaus in West Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, was said to be working on a journalism scholarship program in Hong Kong before his death.

“His death came as a shock since we were in the middle of working to reshape the journalism scholarships he had endowed at the JMC, HKU (Journalism and Media Studies Centre, Hong Kong University) to remember his late wife, Vicky,” Ying Chan, an investigative journalist based in Hong Kong and close friend of Zeitlin, said in a Facebook post on Thursday, December 28.

Chan said Zeitlin’s daughter had informed her of Zeitlin’s death.

Zeitlin was diagnosed with stage four multiple myeloma, a kind of blood cancer, in 2016. Zeitlin went under treatment before his protein levels normalized a year later and he continuously received medication.

“At that time, statistically, I had five years to live,” Zeitlin wrote in a blog post in August this year. “Now, I am in remission, still, statistically, with five years to live. I’m hoping to reach my 92d birthday in January.”

Zeitlin started working for AP after a slip-up in the educational assistance program provided by the US government to service members. He needed the money, so he was taking his master’s program at the Columbia Journalism School and went to work at AP by sundown.

Time in Manila

During the Marcos dictatorship, the renowned American journalist was accused of “malicious, false reporting” and the then-president accused him of allegedly “[endangering] the security and prestige of the country.”

“My reporting on martial law excesses and the simmering civil war with Muslims in Mindanao annoyed the martial law government,” Zeitlin said in an interview in 2020.

At the time, most of the news publications in the country were already controlled by the government. Zeitlin said the Marcos regime wanted AP to start censoring its reports “so that the few newspapers allowed to publish wouldn’t see disturbing news.” But he stood his ground and was later on expelled from the country.

Zeitlin said the ouster “essentially ended” his tenure as AP foreign correspondent.

He would later find himself working as a newsman for AP in Boston, before retiring from AP after 20 years of service in 1987.

He then went on to hold other journalism jobs, working as a managing editor of Boston’s The Worldpaper and helping set up a news weekly in Bangladesh. He also taught journalism students and young journalists.

“It’s been at least five years since I last visited the Philippines, but hardly a day goes by without some recollection or memory of the country,” Zeitlin said in 2014 when he received the Ninoy Aquino Medal of Valor.

“I’ve followed its ups and its downs, often with great frustration,” he added. “I wish the country and its many gracious and talented men and women well.” – Rappler.com

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