NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
February 26, 2006
For a few years now, the global media community has acknowledged the Philippines among the most dangerous places for journalists. In the past two years, our country has been second only to Iraq in the number of media killings. Philippine journalists have fought hard to roll back the tide of violence. Today, however, the Philippine press faces its strongest challenge.
In declaring a "state of national emergency," President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made media among her main targets. She and senior aides warned of government takeover of media facilities considered friendly to the political opposition.
Police have already raided the offices of the Daily Tribune, a national daily. Armed men in civilian clothes have gone around the offices of Abante, the country's biggest tabloid. Police had earlier arrested Randy David, a columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, holding the award-winning journalist and sociologist for five hours prosecutors said there was no ground to charge him with any crime.
The government deployed troops to the compounds of ABS-CBN 2 and GMA 7, the country's largest television networks. The government's claim was
that the soldiers were protecting these stations from a potential takeover by destabilizers.
Police have also declared that they would not hesitate to takeover media entities found "aiding" the administration's enemies. The police also said they would soon release "standards" or guidelines that journalists must follow and that investigators and prosecutors were monitoring the news.
By the government's definition, providing aid to Mrs. Arroyo's enemies includes interviewing opposition parties. In simple terms, the administration wants media to present only the side of the embattled government, using force and coercion to bend journalists to its wishes.
Filipinos, journalists included, fought a long, hard battle to regain democracy after two decades of tyranny. That Mrs. Arroyo timed this crackdown on civil liberties with the anniversary of the Marcos dictatorship's fall only highlights her break with the democratic aspirations of Filipinos. Even as she warns enemies of feeling the full force of the law, Mrs. Arroyo flaunts constitutional guarantees to free speech and expression and press freedom.
Leaders of Philippine society have spoken out against the government's iron-hand tactics. The Philippine journalism community has also moved fast to unite against this grand assault on press freedom. Today, (Sunday, Feb. 26), the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines will lead various organizations and individual journalists in protesting the crackdown on media. The Philippine media community intends to send Mrs. Arroyo a strong message: We will not go gently into the night.
We call on all our colleagues in print, broadcast and digital journalism worldwide to support Philippine media in this dark hour. Please add your voice to our protest. Let us collectively condemn the crackdown on Philippine media and remind Mrs. Arroyo that no country can be free to prosper if its media is silenced and cowed.
You can send protest letters to the government through the Office of the Press Secretary at email@example.com, with facsimile number (632) 735-6167 or deliver these to the nearest Philippine embassy and consulate. You can send solidarity messages to the NUJP through its email address, firstname.lastname@example.org or post this on our website, www.nujp.org. National Union of Journalists of the Philippines