“But even if we mark World Press Freedom Day with many reasons to be fearful, we mark it also with hope, knowing that there are many of us still working each day to gather facts and shine a little light on what is happening in the country and on what isn’t.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – On World Press Freedom day, journalists in the Philippines reiterated their call for the release of community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and for the junking of Anti-Terror Law.
Expressing their solidarity to demand for the immediate release of Cumpio, many journalists joined the online campaign led by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP). They posted videos or photos of themselves saying, “Ako si Frenchie Mae Cumpio. Tagapagbalita. Hindi terorista.” (I am Frenchie Mae Cumpio. A journalist. Not a terrorist.)
Cumpio is the executive director of alternative news outfit Eastern Vista and a radio anchor of local news program in Tacloban. She was arrested during in simultaneous raids in Tacloban City on Feb 7, 2020 and was charged with fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
— Jonathan de Santos (@desamting) May 3, 2021
— Maria Ressa (@mariaressa) May 3, 2021
— John Nery (@jnery_newsstand) May 3, 2021
— Lady Ann Salem (@LadyAnnSalem1) May 3, 2021
Today, May 3, is #WorldPressFreedomDay.
It stands to commemorate and serve as a reminder of the importance of press freedom in a democracy. It stands to appreciate the significance of factual and critical information for the people. pic.twitter.com/Qe6ULgSijL
— CEGP Cordillera (@CEGPCordi) May 3, 2021
Media groups also reiterated their opposition to Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which the NUJP views “as a threat to many civil liberties, including the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.”
“Already, a general has hinted that a journalist who wrote about Aeta farmers asking to join as petitioners against the case could face charges. This was after the general called her a ‘propagandist for terrorists,’” the NUJP said in a statement
The NUJP is among the petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the law before the Supreme Court. The high court is hearing oral arguments on the petitions against the ATA of 2020.
Seventeen media outlets and organizations and 79 individual journalists also signed a joint statement against the ATA.
“Government’s assurance that protection clauses are in place fly in the face of the experience of news organizations and journalists who have been red-tagged and branded as ‘terrorists’ by government and security officials. With the government’s anti-insurgency campaign causing a rise in killings of activists, we fear for the safety of our colleagues,” the statement released today read.
“The ATA will not succeed in reducing the threat of terrorism with over-reaching prohibitions on expressive as well as political freedoms,” they added.
The NUJP also highlighted the continued attacks against journalists, citing recent cases such as the police raid on the house of student journalist Justine Mesias in Daraga, Albay on May 2, and the harassment against Northern Dispatch reporter Khim Abalos on April 24.
The NUJP and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility documented 51 documented cases of intimidation of journalists between June 30, 2016 to April 30, 2021. Of those cases, 30 involved red-tagging and 22 happened during the pandemic.
“We mark World Press Freedom Day with the grim reminder that ABS-CBN was ordered off the air nearly a year ago and that cases against Rappler have continued to mount,” the NUJP said. “But even if we mark World Press Freedom Day with many reasons to be fearful, we mark it also with hope, knowing that there are many of us still working each day to gather facts and shine a little light on what is happening in the country and on what isn’t.”
Several other online activities were also held to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, including a forum entitled “The State of Media Freedom in the Philippines: Breaking barriers to bring information to the public” organized by Freedom for Media Freedom for All coalition and the Press Free Jam organized by Altermidya and Concerned Artists of the Philippines.
In a statement, Altermidya People’s Alternative Media Network also vowed to fight back amid attacks on press freedom.
“United, journalists and the freedom-loving public must sing a song of unity, a ballad of fearless reporting and truth-telling. We must counter the raucous cacophony that is the Duterte administration and rewrite our nation’s hymn for freedom and democratic rights,” Altermidya said in a statement.