Attack on Philippine press a prelude to wilting democracy, freedom
THE Philippine press is facing its worst nightmare, again.
President Rodrigo Duterte is clearing his path for his grand dictatorial ambition in a shameless attack to press freedom, with Securities and Exchange and Commission’s revocation of Rappler’s registration for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities.
The move is straight out of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ textbook on building a ruthless and totalitarian dictatorship. Duterte is slowly putting death to press freedom, silencing those exposing the fully unveiled brutality of his regime that is leading to a dictatorship.
Press freedom, as a constitutional right, is widely disregarded by his regime while they praise fully their charlatan army of pseudo-journalist with the likes of Sass Sasot and Mocha Uson. The Philippine government shamelessly laud these fraud “journalists” who use fake news websites and organizations as sources and quell news media organizations critical to his regime especially on his murderous war on drugs.
The Philippines, described as one of the freest press in Asia, is also the most dangerous in the world. Duterte is hell-bent on silencing his critics and has repeatedly threatened the closure of several mainstream media institutions.
While the attack on Rappler is opening a wider scope of debate and discussion, the Duterte regime has, in fact, been attacking press freedom in the alternative media. Many alternative media journalists are tagged by Duterte himself as communist or members of the New People’s Army.
On December last year, there have been issues of political persecutions targeting alternative media practitioners. Sherwin de Vera, an environmental journalist who writes a column for Northern Dispatch Weekly, was illegally arrested on his way home. He is still detained until now in Abra Provincial Jail for trumped-up charges of rebellion. Meanwhile, Kathyrine Cortez of media outfit Radyo ni Juan was consistently harassed and tagged as a supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Student publications are also targeted by the fascist regime. Several campus publications and student journalists across the country have been subjected to various forms of harassment, red-tagging and military surveillance. One of our member publication in Camarines Sur reported last September 2017 that they received a message from the Armed Forces of the Philippines that they are part of the watch list of Duterte’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.
The Filipino people should never forget that the first atrocity of late dictator Marcos during his martial law rule is a student journalist. Liliosa Hilao is a student and campus journalist of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Postmortem findings showed she was tortured. Her face was severely swollen and bore cigarette burns and there have been injection marks in her arms and handcuff marks on her wrists. She was even possibly sexually abused by the perpetrators.
Attack on the press is attack to the Filipino people
United States lapdog Duterte is the flagbearer of terrorism in the country. He has killed almost 13,000 in his war against drugs and has killed even thousands more in the two other wars he waged against the Filipino people, namely: all-out war or Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte’s fascist dictatorship is slowly taking form. His attack against Rappler is not only an attack to Philippine press but a grave attack on our moribund democracy. This is the time that the Philippine press should imbibe the virtue of the second propaganda movement which means that we should organize ourselves as a militant and progressive journalists to fight back against the permeating tyrannical rule in our country.
But time and again, the Philippine press has proven to rise above a fascist dictatorship. The press will continue to defend its freedom and fight for its duty to the Filipino people especially that it is a bulwark of truth and people’s democratic interests.
If the state continues to impose its iron fist, the Philippine press too, will.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines calls on our fellow campus journalists, media practitioners, organizations, and individuals that are for the advancement of the people’s rights and welfare, to unite and combat state-perpetuated violence and all forms of repression that target press freedom and the people’s democratic rights.