Today, World Press Freedom Day, we the members of the Philippine press call to account this administration whose sins of omission and commission over the past nine years have resulted in the most murderous period for the media, not only in our country’s history but the world’s.
Since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was borne to power by the people, we have seen media practitioners murdered in record numbers – 100 of the 137 killed since 1987 were slain under her watch – capped by the unprecedented slaughter of 32 journalists and media staff last November 23, the worst single attack on journalists ever.
If anyone should bear responsibility for this outrage, aside from the accused members and armed retainers of a clan that counts among Arroyo’s staunchest allies, it is Arroyo herself.
She whose apathy and even outright hostility towards that bulwark of democracy, a free press, has led to inaction on past killings, thereby emboldening those who would suppress freedom of expression and the people’s right to know into doing so with impunity.
She who nurtured warlords, allowing them to build up massive arsenals and armies and obscene wealth in their invariably poverty- and war-ridden fiefdoms, in exchange for ensuring the survival of an administration whose legitimacy had always been under question. If we are to go by the conviction record of those responsible for the murder of our colleagues – six gunmen, and no masterminds – it would not need genius to conclude that many of those who ordered these killings count among her warlord allies.
She who, the only one since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, attempted a wholesale clampdown on the media in 2006, when she declared a state of national emergency that former allies disillusioned with her misrule confirmed was mainly intended to silence an increasingly critical press rather than contain any supposed threat to government.
She whose glaring silence as her husband brazenly abused the influence he wielded as her spouse embarked on what has aptly been described as a litigious spree of libel suits against more than 40 journalists, a silence that cannot be interpreted any other way but as tacit approval.
Yes, today, World Press Freedom Day, we call to account this president who has proven herself to be a true enemy of press freedom.
Yet today, we also call to account those who seek to govern this country after her, they who spout promises of a better future but whose voices were hardly heard in the immediate aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre or, truth to tell, the scores of other media murders over the past nine years, and who have, till now, remain deafeningly silent on the life and death issues of human rights and civil liberties, including press freedom.
We serve notice that whoever ascends to the presidency after May 10 will be held as equally accountable as the current president for ensuring that justice is done, not only for the Ampatuan massacre but for all the media murders of the past. For, lest they forget or refuse to remember, these crimes are not a matter of one administration’s accountability but of the State.
But today, even as we continue to rage against the continued efforts to suppress the freedom of the press and the people’s right to know, we also celebrate the Philippine media community, who remain fiercely independent because they choose to be so despite all efforts to stifle them.
Time and again, the Philippine media have proven that, notwithstanding the often raucous nature of professional competition, they are truly united in defense of our freedoms and liberties, and those of the people they serve.
And today, World Press Freedom Day, we, the independent Philippine press vow to remain so, in the service of the people and of the nation.
Mobile number – 0917-725-6333