After media giants, campus publications also 'unsafe' – student groups
MANILA, Philippines—“Kung may kakayahan ang gobyerno na bantaan ang Rappler, ABS-CBN, what's stopping them from doing it sa alternative media groups at student publications?”
(If the government is able to threaten Rappler and ABS-CBN, what’s stopping them from doing the same to alternative media groups and student publications?)
This is the argument made by Philippine Collegian editor-in-chief Beatrice Puente on Wednesday, Febraury 26 in a mobilization organized by the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) Student Council. Various campus publications and student organizations joined the protest at the state university, calling to stop the attacks against media practitioners. (READ: Campus publications call for autonomy, protection of press freedom)
The students remained committed to their call for press freedom, citing Solicitor General Jose Calida's move to void the franchise of ABS-CBN, the Philippines' biggest network.
Congress has the mandate to issue, renew, or cancel broadcasting franchises, but Calida brought the matter to the High Court.
“Kung ganito na lang kadali sa gobyerno na basurahin ang malalaking media groups, malinaw sa atin na hindi tayo safe (If it is so easy for the government to kick out giant media groups, it’s clear to us that we are not safe),” she added.
Puente also emphasized the importance of taking part in mobilization protests that push for a free press.
“Warm bodies in a protest show that we're not afraid,” Puente said.
This was echoed by Miggy Arnonobal of the UP Broadcast Guild as he urged his fellow campus journalists to continue being watchful of the government.
“Hindi lang natin dapat bantayan ngayon ang pagpapasara sa ABS-CBN. Bantayan rin natin ang pasismo laban sa mga maliliit na organisasyon, community papers na mas kritikal pa lalo kay Duterte,” he said.
(We shouldn’t just pay attention to what the government is doing to ABS-CBN. We should also be watchful of the fascism shown against small organizations, community papers who are more critical of Duterte.)
Duterte himself has repeatedly denounced media he perceived to be critical of his administration.
Aside from threats against ABS-CBN, Duterte often lashed out at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler for its coverage of his anti-illegal drug operations and other administration policies.
For Cecilia Munsod of Union of Journalists in the Philippines-UP (UJP-UP), the attacks by the government on free speech and press freedom can be likened to the time of martial law, which suppressed any critical reportage or portrayal of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ regime.
“Nakikita natin na ang nangyayari ngayon ay second coming ng Martial Law, kung saan ang midya ang unang pinunterya ni Marcos. Ito ay dahil makapangyarihan ang midya sa pagpapalaganap ng ideolohiya,” Munsod said.
(What’s happening now looks like the second coming of Martial Law, when the media were the first to be attacked by Marcos. This is because of how powerful the media can be in spreading ideology.)
The next generation
UP CMC Dean Arminda Santiago reminded students of media's crucial role, citing how the group was one of the first to release a statement of support for the broadcast giant soon after the petition was filed.
“Ang midya ay simbolo ng demokrasya na kailangan nating alagaan. Hindi tayo papayag na bubusalan ang midya. Ipaglaban natin ang karapatan natin sa impormasyon,” Santiago said.
(The media is a symbol of democracy that we need to protect. We will not allow them to gag us. We have to fight for our right to information.)
UP Journalism professor Danilo Arao highlighted the importance of the youth when press freedom is under attack.
“Kung walang kabataan, hindi tayo makakapagpatalsik ng diktador noong 1986. Kung walang kabataan, hindi tayo makakapagpatalsik ng isa pang corrupt na administrasyon noong 2001...Nakatutuwa na hindi kinakalimutan ng ilang sektor ng kabataan ang kanyang saligang tungkulin…para sa kinabukasan ng ating bayan,” Arao said.
(Without the youth, it would be impossible to oust a dictator in 1986. Without them, we would not be able to unseat another corrupt regime in 2001. Glad to see that there are members of the youth sector who have not forgotten their basic duties…for our nation’s future.)
The protest, meanwhile, also urged Congress to pass the bill renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise.
In a Senate hearing on Monday, Febraury 24, government officials cleared the network over issues of taxes, labor conditions, pay-per-view services, and Philippine Depositary Receipts.
On this same occassion, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologized for having offended President Rodrigo Duterte.
Days later, Duterte accepted the apology but clarified that this did not guarantee an end to the network’s franchise troubles, saying its fate lies in Congress.– with reports from Alois Isinika, Vhea Mae Tapanan and Tinig ng Plaridel/Rappler.com