Photo by Reiven Pascasio
Text by Jane Bautista
Amid attacks against the press, media practitioners and students gathered at a forum in the College of Mass Communication, UP Diliman to decry state repression on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Organized by the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), “Pressed Freedom” is the first in a series of fora to be launched at different universities and colleges that aims to discuss the current state of media democracy under the Duterte administration.
The Philippine media saw itself under the spotlight when the first month of the year began.
On Jan. 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered to revoke the registration of Rappler due to its alleged violation on Foreign Equity Restriction. Three days after, 30 radio stations in Mindanao were threatened to be shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission due to technical violations.
“Media does not exist in a vacuum. Neither do attacks in the media,” said Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) convenor Inday Espina Varona.
Varona recapped the specific events when the government tried to challenge the free press and emphasized that just like former President Marcos, Duterte’s assault on media has to do with consolidation of powers and his vision of dictatorship.
Meanwhile, Voltaire Tupaz, spokesperson of Rappler’s Citizen Journalism Arm, called for young journalists to unite to defend the freedom of the press.
“Maging part kayo, ‘wag maging absent sa makasaysayang labang ito dahil dito kayo matututo ng marami beyond the four walls of your classroom,” Tupaz said.
Campus publication crisis
During the forum, the issue on the crisis of Philippine Collegian, the official campus publication of UP Diliman, was brought up by Bulatlat writer Ronalyn Olea.
Jose Mari Callueng, National President of CEGP, explained that the publication is at the brink of being defunded because its current budget was just a carry over from the funds in the previous years.
Since the implementation of the Free Tuition Policy program, the administration considered the Philippine Collegian and University Student Council fees as part of the ‘other school fees.’ Callueng further said that there are offers to subsidize the funds.
However, Sonny Boy Afable, editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian, said that the publication is against this proposal.
According to Afable, the student fees must still be collected from the students.
“Kaya tinawag na student publications, student council, dahil nagmumula ang fiscal autonomy mula sa mga estudyante. We fear na kapag sinubsidize pa ng government, mas magiging tight sila sa budget,” he said.
When asked if there had been dialogues between them and the UP administration, Afable said that they have been requesting for it as early as August last year.
Olea lauded the stand of the Philippine Collegian and said that these student publications and student councils are products of students movements, hence they embody the complete expression of freedom inside the university.
After the forum, students led by UP College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) Chairperson Mikko Ringia proceeded to a protest calling for unity in defending press freedom.
This was not the first time that CMC students staged a rally to condemn media suppressions. Last Jan. 18, a candle-lighting protest was held in front of Plaridel Hall to denounce the threats and attacks against press freedom.