freedom of expression

[OPINION] I’m a jaded journalism graduate living in corporate stability, but I won’t stop speaking out

Andrea Rivera
[OPINION] I’m a jaded journalism graduate living in corporate stability, but I won’t stop speaking out
'It would be easy for someone like me to just stay dormant in my stable yet uneventful corporate bubble.... But if there’s anything that journalism taught me, it’s that there’s a deeper humanistic value in speaking truth to power.'

It was midnight, July 18, when I felt the weight of the Philippines’ civil liberties hanging heavily on my shoulders. That day, the Anti-Terrorism Act took effect, bringing with it, ironically, a looming sense of terror. This comes after Congress denied the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, forcing the latter to shut down for the second time in its over six-decade history and leaving more than 11,000 employees in the pit of uncertainty. The first shutdown was in 1972 – the year former President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.

And all of this was happening as the country is grappling with billions in debt, an overwhelmed health sector, and one of the world’s longest – and most unsustainable – community quarantines at over 100 days.

There are plenty of reasons to just shut up and turn a blind eye for the sake of my sanity and safety, but I refuse to succumb to apathy and silence. Not when the Filipino people needs voices the most.

And especially not with the Anti-Terror Act, which gives the government enough power to quash dissent, raising alarm bells for free speech in the country. It really makes one think: how can laws like this be weaponized with the purest of intentions when Philippine politics has long been embroiled in corruption and distrust?

When I was in high school, I decided to go into journalism mostly because all the school-administered aptitude tests and years of being the resident writer made me believe that I was good at using the English language. I only felt briefly discouraged when my teenage self learned that the Philippines is the second most dangerous country for journalists next to Iraq. This was in 2009, the year 58 media personnel were massacred en route to a dynasty-ruled town in Maguindanao for election coverage. It was this event that made me hear the phrase “culture of impunity” over and over again in college, only to learn what it really meant for our constitutional rights years later. (READ: Journalism is a crime in a fake world)

But still, my wide-eyed teenage self was stubborn enough to pursue journalism even when most of my classmates went into medicine, business, or pre-law courses. While they were assured of a good and stable future, I was prepared to be seen as an overworked, underpaid, and contractual employee with slim chances of regularization. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “walang pera sa journalism” from friends, family, schoolmates, and even co-members of university organizations. And yet, I was too idealistic to give in. Mostly because I thought being a newswoman was a “calling,” but also because I wanted to prove that I was aggressive and courageous enough to become one.

As I grew up and my cynical nature became more apparent, I realized that I might be wrong. I wasn’t aggressive, nor was I fearless. I was meek, quiet, and not exactly the best conversationalist. My anxiety and clinical depression went undiagnosed until my early 20’s, and this became the impetus for my decision to slip quietly into the corporate world and leave my childish “hardcore news” dreams to the louder, smarter, braver, and stronger. Or rather, those with relatively stable mental health.

It would be easy for someone like me to just stay dormant in my stable yet uneventful corporate bubble. After all, I’ve been submissive and reserved all my life. One could even say that to remain silent would be the smart thing to do in this political climate.

But if there’s anything that journalism taught me, it’s that there’s a deeper humanistic value in speaking truth to power. Four years of mass communications courses taught me that a journalist’s responsibility is to the truth; that a journalist is not supposed to be a mouthpiece of any government but rather a critical lens through which citizens judge their leaders. To attack the press is to attack the basic tenets of society. It’s saddening to think that even today, the people who dedicate their lives to this right to free and creative expression are still undervalued by their own country.

And one doesn’t even have to work in the media to learn these values. Ultimately, governments should serve their people – not the other way around. Now is not the time to be complacent. While it’s fine to stay away for a while, one must remember that speaking out on the potential death of our right to criticize means speaking out against the exploitation of silence to get away with injustice. (READ: [OPINION] Campus journalists, now is the time to speak up)

American activist and writer Audre Lorde once said that silence will not protect us, and that we will be no less afraid regardless of whether we speak up or not. My goal is to fight for this right to speak up in my own way, even as society renders my voice as small and insignificant.

And if the large and powerful wants to take that voice away from me, then I’m not going down without a fight. – Rappler.com

Andrea Rivera is an office employee and writer based in Makati City. She graduated with a degree in journalism from UP Diliman.