On World Press Freedom Day, student journalists condemned the attacks against the press and trumped-up charges against media workers.
In a statement, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) slammed anew the shutting down of ABS-CBN and charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
CEGP likewise demanded for the release of campus journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and Astudillo.
Cumpio was arrested on Feb. 7, 2020 at the Easter Vista staff house in Tacloban City, Leyte, during a series of raids on what the military claimed were “identified Communist Terrorist Group safe houses.”
Meanwhile, Astudillo was among the “Human Rights 7” arrested on Human Rights Day on Dec. 18, 2020.
“Alternative media such as progressive organizations, campus publications, and individuals were even sat upon an endless showing of the authoritarian horror movie with continuous scenes of red-tagging, military surveillance, harassments, and unjust arrest,” CEGP said.
“Hence, the CEGP extends its hands to critical organizers, staffers, and supporters in writing and choosing truth, change, and freedom despite Duterte’s silent steps. Bastions and vanguards are we in these times of resistance against the tyrannical ruler and he must be held accountable for his crimes.”
At least 19 journalists have been killed in the four years of the administration of Duterte, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
In a separate statement, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Campus Journalists attributed the country’s drop in the in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index to “trumped-up charges, warrantless arrests, state-sponsored killings, continuous gagging by the government, and red-tagging” of Filipino journalists.
The Philippines recently fell two places to 138th out of 180 economies in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 World Press Freedom Index in the wake of the red-tagging of and attacks against local media.
“Information is imperative these days, especially in a pandemic-centered nation and one of the leading victims of the global disinformation epidemic. Every data, every figure, every detail, and every evidence must be verified, fact-checked, and be told in its most normal accurate form. No one has the right to mask nor deny the public for truth,” it said.
“The media and the press had sworn in to their oath as the truth-tellers of the country. We serve the interest of the many, not the interest of the few. As the official writing arm of the university’s official newsletter and media channel, PUP Campus Journalists are one with every journalist who unceasingly holds the line and are unyielding on their quest to tell nothing but the truth for our country.”
The World Press Freedom Day is commemorated every May 3 in “support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom.”
Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, the World Press Freedom Day is also a day of remembrance of those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.