Youth groups call out 'orchestrated attack' against Rappler, media
MANILA, Philippines – Youth groups and students staged protests in various parts of the country on Thursday, February 14, after the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, which they saw as part of an "orchestrated attack" against the media.
On Thursday, the University of the Philippines-College of Communication (UP-CMC) held protest actions at the CMC Veranda to denounce the "latest attack on press freedom."
Bea Fuentes, national chairperson of UP Solidaridad, debunked claims that there are no orchestrated attacks against the press.
She mentioned how alternative, critical news organizations have been targeted, citing the ongoing series of cyberattacks against Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, among others. She said Rappler is not an isolated case and that it is part of an "orchestrated attack" against media.
"Itong mga atakeng ito ay hindi lang nagkataon, na isang beses Rappler aatakihin, pero 'yung nakaraang linggo 'yung alternative media outfits. Lahat 'yan ay orchestrated," she said.
(These attacks are not random, where Rappler will be attacked once, and then alternative media outfits in another week. It's all orchestrated.)
"Hindi lang ito laban ng Rappler. Laban ito ng lahat ng progresibong media groups – mainstream, alternative, campus press. Lahat tayo ay naririto upang i-forward 'yung call natin to defend press freedom," she added.
(This isn't just Rappler's fight. This is the fight of all progressive media groups – mainstream, alternative, campus press. All of us are here to forward the call to defend press freedom.)
Fuentes explained how members of the press should speak up about the injustices that they face or notice.
"Hindi lang tayo dapat watchdog.... Dapat i-register natin ang ating tindig tungkol sa ganitong mga isyu dahil kung hindi tayo magsasalita about it, sino pa?" she asked.
(We are not just watchdogs...We have to take a stand about these issues because if we don't speak up about them, who else will?)
Gemma Bagayaua Mendoza, Rappler's head of research and content strategy, talked about how press freedom is the foundation of human rights and democracy.
"Ang karapatan sa malayang pamamahayag ay hindi lang po karapatan ng mga mamamahayag.... Ito ay sandalan ng karapatan ng mga ordinaryong mamamayan para makakuha ng mahahalaga at makatotohanang impormasyon tungkol sa mga bagay na nakakaapekto sa atin," she explained.
(The right to free press is not only the right of journalists.... It's the foundation of the right of ordinary citizens to access important and true information about issues that affect us.)
She noted how the targeted attacks against the administration's critics could mean grave consequences not just for the press but also for the people.
"Nagiging malinaw na hindi lang po ito tungkol lamang sa Rappler o tungkol kay Maria. Si Maria Ressa at ang Rappler ay ehemplo lamang. At ang mensahe na sinasabi ng gubyernong ito sa mga mamamahayag sa ating bansa ay ito: 'Manahimik kayo. Baka kayo ang sumunod.' Papayag ba tayo?" she asked.
(It's clear that this is not just about Rappler or Maria Ressa. They are just examples. The message that the government is sending to journalists is this: 'Be silent. You may be next.' Will we allow it?)
Calls to defend press freedom also echoed in different parts of the country, as various groups organized protest actions.
In Cebu, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) held a quick response protest at the entrace gate of UP Cebu around 12:30 pm Thursday.
"We call on all Filipinos to stand united against these attacks that degrade our rights to truth and information," CEGP Cebu said in its statement.
Students from the De La Salle University (DLSU), DLSU senior high school, and DLSU-College of Saint Benilde attended a protest in the Taft-Vito Cruz area, headed by One La Salle for Human Rights and Democracy.
Students from the League of Filipino Students-University of Santo Tomas (LFS-UST) and Anakbayan UST also held a protest at UST Gate 11 in Dapitan.
Students also protested outside the Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Communication to condemn the arrest of Ressa as well as attacks against press freedom and the administration's critics.
Ressa was arrested and detained overnight on Wednesday, February 13, by the National Bureau of Investigation because of a warrant issued by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.
The case stemmed from a 7-year-old story written before the cyber libel law was enacted. – with reports from Raisa Serafica/ Rappler.com