De Lima pushes greater protection of campus journalists

Published July 15, 2018, 6:04 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Leila de Lima is now pushing for the repeal of Republic Act 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act saying it has serious flaws and deficiencies in promoting the growth and development of campus journalism across the country.

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)

In filing Senate Bill No. 1868, de Lima pushed for greater protection for campus journalists against harassment and intimidation especially for the critical stances they put out regarding local and national issues and policies in their respective school publications.

“The campus press is expected to uphold the interest of the students and the Filipino people, such as the incessant and unabated tuition and other fee increases, repressive student policies, human rights violations, disregard for national sovereignty, corruption in government, and various assaults to the rights of the people,” De Lima said in explaining her bill.

“It is, therefore, unsurprising to find student journalists in conflict with institutions who use their authority to quell free speech and expression. Throughout history, many student editors and writers have been persecuted,” she added.

The detained senator earlier defended the college editors and staff of “The Bedan Roar,” the official student publication of the San Beda University’s senior high school, for criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

The school blocked the release of the 1,700 copies of the paper that featured the college editorial staff’s criticism of the administration’s policies. Both De Lima and Duterte graduated from the San Beda College of Law.

She said the students merely did what any true Bedan would do and what “a true Filipino patriot would do, when they called out the threat of a tyrant.

Unfortunately, de Lima said student journalists experience harassment and intimidation from their own schools, especially when they oppose or are critical of school programs and policies at the expenses of the best interest of the studentry.

“Despite constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and expression, it is simply preposterous and disheartening that campus press freedom violations exist,” she said.

“By repealing the present law, and replacing it with a law that genuinely upholds campus press freedom, we can once again reclaim campus journalism as it once were – an unbiased, untainted avenue of self-expression, critical and creative thinking, and a beacon of nationalism and democracy,” she said.

The lawmaker explained the present law contains serious flaws and deficiencies that curtail the development and growth of campus journalism as well as the promotion and protection of rights and welfare of campus journalists.

Under the bill, De Lima proposed various programs and projects that would empower student journalists, affording them with consistent and reliable source of funds, providing them with in-depth training, and bestowing them the freedom to determine the content of their publication.