attacks against media

[OPINION] Another man down. Who’s next? 

Ron Michael Lucas

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[OPINION] Another man down. Who’s next? 

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'Despite the Philippines claiming to be a democratic and liberal nation, statistics tell a different story'

Another Filipino journalist has been slain, a radio broadcaster to be exact. Now, every one of us is looking at each other, echoing the question, “Who’s next?” 

November 5, 2023 – as dawn breaks, Misamis Oriental awakens to the voice of a radio broadcaster named Juan Tumpag Jumalon, better known as DJ Johnny Walker, as he hosts his program on FM94.7 Gold Radio Calamba. Little did this broadcaster know, he was hitting the nail on the head for the last time. Just as Jumalon’s program started, a man barged into the studio set up in Jumalon’s home, shot him dead during the live broadcast, and even snatched his necklace. According to the police, another man who served as a lookout trained a gun on the security guard of Jumalon’s home. Jumalon was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. 

No, this was not a scene from a movie, nor was it an isolated case. Juan was the fourth media professional killed during Marcos Jr.’s regime and the 199th since democracy was restored in 1986. As per the report by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a total of 196 journalists lost their lives. Among these tragic incidents, 102 were from radio, 72 from print media, 14 from a combination of media sources, 8 were television journalists, and the remaining individuals were freelance or associated with wire services. This data underscores the significant risks and dangers that journalists face in pursuit of their profession in the Philippines. Just last year, another incident of impunity was added to the list when another broadcaster named Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa was slain near his home in Las Piñas. 

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Shortly after the murder of Juan Jumalon, President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos released a statement condemning the killing of the broadcaster. However, the impact of this statement on improving the safety of journalists in the country seems uncertain. Despite the president’s condemnation, it’s unclear how this will address the broader challenges and risks faced by journalists in their line of work. 

Irrespective of the specific circumstances surrounding Juan’s tragic demise, his death epitomizes the ever-looming specter that has cast a pall over the journalistic community in the Philippines. It serves as a stark reminder of the precarious tightrope many journalists are forced to walk, acutely aware that their dedication to truth and transparency might inevitably endanger their lives. The chilling reality is that in our profession, the threat of persecution or violence is an ominous constant, making our tenure in this field precarious and uncertain. 

The alarming truth of the matter is that the Philippines’ press freedom ranking, as disclosed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in their 2022 report, underscores the dire situation faced by journalists in the country. Landing at an abysmal 147th out of 180 nations, the Philippines stands alongside nations where the stifling of press freedom is an unfortunate reality. To put this in perspective, it’s disheartening to note that the Philippines sits just above countries like Sri Lanka, ranked at 146th, and trails far behind Ukraine, positioned at the 106th spot. This ranking speaks volumes about the formidable challenges journalists in the Philippines encounter daily, wheres peaking truth to power often comes at a perilous cost.

The harrowing truth behind Jumalon’s untimely demise illuminates the prevailing atmosphere of fear and caution among Filipino journalists. This state of constant vigilance illustrates the sobering reality that our lives may be at risk. Despite the Philippines claiming to be a democratic and liberal nation, statistics tell a different story. A democratic state necessitates the protection of its media, an essential pillar of its democratic structure.

While the number of journalists killed during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration has gradually decreased over the years, the problem of impunity persists and continues to haunt Filipino journalists. This means that those responsible for these attacks often escape punishment, creating a lingering sense of vulnerability and fear among journalists in the Philippines. Despite a reduction in the direct targeting and killings, the lack of accountability for these crimes remains a significant concern, impacting the freedom and safety of the press in the country. 

The persistent and tragic killings of Filipino journalists strike at the heart of freedom of speech and democracy in the Philippines. The alarming impunity surrounding these cases not only endangers the lives of those in the journalism profession but also poses a severe threat to the democratic principles of the nation. When journalists are targeted and their voices silenced without consequences, it creates a chilling effect on the media, leading to self-censorship and the suppression of information vital for an informed society. The lack of accountability for these heinous acts sends a message that silencing journalists is acceptable, eroding the very essence of democracy, which thrives on the free flow of information and the protection of fundamental rights. Addressing these issues is crucial to safeguarding both the lives of journalists and the democratic values upon which a fair and just society stands. 

We can only hope and pray that “No one” will be our answer to the question “Who’s next?” –

Ron Michael Lucas works as a news writer, anchorman, and news presenter at Bombo Radyo Butuan. He finished his degree in AB Political Science from Father Saturnino Urios University.

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