By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
DAVAO CITY — Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani T. Zarate challenged journalists to “take the viewpoint and standpoint for truth and fairness for the people” amid the continuing threats to press freedom and media practitioners.
Zarate made this challenge during his keynote speech at the launch of the book Defending Journalism at the Pinnacle Hotel in Davao City last November 18. Zarate spoke before local journalists and representatives of the international media organizations that include the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The book published by the International Media Support in Denmark in cooperation with the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communications (AIJC) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) talks about the state of press freedom and how media practitioners adapt to these conditions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Iraq, Colombia and the Philippines.
Zarate noted that despite geographical, political and economic disparity among the seven countries cited in the book media practitioners face three common challenges: no genuine press freedom, women in the media are marginalized and violence against the media happens with impunity.
According to UNESCO’s report at least one journalist is killed every five days while many others suffer from other violations that include kidnapping, arbitrary detention, torture and harassment among others.
Zarate noted that journalism in these countries is thriving against all these odds. “It continues to be our source of inspiration to know that there are people who will defy repression by pushing for a freer press even if it costs their liberty and even lives,” he said.
According to Zarate, journalism is a dangerous profession because the media has always been at odds with those in power in a world order where only a few control economic and political powers. He said that despite the dangers, journalists still prowl the streets, battlefields, halls of congress, urban jungles and mountain ranges to report on strife, poverty, injustice and the people’s struggles and realities.
“That your profession–nay, our profession, is dangerous is perhaps an apt testament to the immortality of an idea, and how, when it is planted into the minds of the people, threatens to topple even the most well-entrenched status quo,” Zarate said.
“Indeed, people, journalists, could be killed, but the idea lives on,” he aded.
Zarate before becoming a partylist representative was a lawyer and a journalist. He started his journalistic career as a member of the campus press under the Ferdinand E. Marcos dictatorship. He was a reporter for the Media Mindanao News Service and Malaya while going through law school.
Zarate reiterated the need for everyone to be one in defending journalism. He said that the civil society, peoples’ organizations and journalist organizations must work together to protect the lives of journalits and defend press freedom. He added that while it is important to monitor and report abuses against journalists the work should not end there.
Zarate said that at present most media infrastructure in the Philippines and the world over are owned by big business and vested interest groups. He added that colonial, elitist, anti-poor and anti-progressive groups biases still dominate the media landscape. He also said that it is undeniable that the rich and powerful corrupt media practitioners. “Along with defending this noble profession, we have to continuously strive for a professional, corruption-free practice of journalism,” he said.
Zarate said that the power of the press is useless if separated from the people. He said that the media should also guard their ranks against the same oppressive system that clamps down on the freedoms of the rest of the people.
“It is in telling the stories of our people, the poor and marginalized especially, expose the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical that truly advance the cause of defending journalism,” Zarate said.
“And only in the elimination of these oppressive systems that we can realize a truly free press,” Zarated ended. # nordis.net