Never Again, Never Forget. This theme reverberated in the two-pronged event organized by PPI members in Davao City on September 21 as seasoned journalists who had harrowing experiences during the Martial rule forty years ago, called for a stop on media harassment, extrajudicial killings and attacks on press freedom which are still prevailing under the current administration. They also challenged the present crop of journalists to do whatever it takes to protect press freedom and preserve democracy.
As early as five in the morning, a group of Davao media practitioners ran on the main thoroughfares of the city wearing themed singlets. At nine in the morning, a sharing of experiences coupled with solidarity speeches and signing on the freedom wall was done in a restaurant.
Tony Ajero of Edge Davao
“Those were the dark days in Philippine journalism, there were uncertainties,” said Tony Ajero, editor-in-chief of the daily publication Edge Davao. He recalled there was fear of unemployment at that time and those suspected to be against the Marcos government had to take a trip to Camp Crame for processing.
Retired veteran TV journalist Marilyn Roque who was employed at a broadcast station in Manila could still remember the statement of Ninoy Aquino who guested in their Kuru-Kuro program: “If anything happens to me, my blood will be in your hands”. Like Ajero, she also feared for her job. “We could not get in our offices.”
Journalism educator and lecturer Ed Fernandez from the Ateneo de Davao University, said he was thirty years old at that time when he felt the gripping effect of Martial rule. “There were no classes.” He encouraged everyone to continue to write stories about it and “retelling stories, lest be threatened of being buried alive”. “Let us celebrate and glorify Mindanao.”
The run-for-a-cause and the forum on September 21 were the first activities done outside Metro Manila organized by the PPI through its members in Davao with Mindanao Times as lead convenor along with Mindanao Daily Mirror, Edge Davao and Sun.Star Davao.
In Manila on September 24, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the PPI spearheaded a roundtable discussion on the State of Philippine Media forty years since tyranny stifled free expression and the free press in the country. This was attended by media practitioners from the mainstream, media organizations and bloggers. Titled “From Macoy to Pnoy”, the RTD had media critic Luis Teodoro from the CMFR, Atty. Jose Jesus Disini from the UP College of Law, Atty. Cris Yambot from the National Union of People’s Lawyers, and Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan from the Right to Know! Right Now! Coalition as resource persons.
“Forty years after President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972,
attacks on press freedom and free expression continue unabated. The threats to freedom of expression with the passage of the Data Privacy Act and the Cybercrime Prevention Act; the impending death of the Freedom of Information Bill in Congress; and the persistence of impunity in the continued threats, attacks and unsolved killings of media practitioners — all these forbode a narrowing of our democratic space.” said the NUJP statement.
Both Disini and Yambot discussed the Cybercrime law and singled out provisions 6, 7 and 9 as restrictive. “There is greater penalty for libel under this law.” Disini said.
Maria Ressa from Rappler questioned the unconstitutionality of said law. “The law is draconian.”
Malou Mangahas from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said that it tramples upon fundamental freedoms. “These are greater freedom.”
“There are certain things that are non-negotiable,” said Dean Teodoro.
Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which was signed into law on September 12 of this year.
PPI Exec. Director Ariel Sebellino
A multi-sectoral forum in early October was recommended as part of the plan of action which will include campaign efforts by media groups and bloggers.
(Founded in 1964 and reactivated in 1987, the Philippine Press Institute was rendered moribund during the martial law regime (1972 – 1986). On July 3, 1986, five months after the People Power Revolt marked the formal revival of the Institute when the reconstituted Board of Governors met for the first time. On June 8, 1987, it was incorporated under Philippine laws.)