Isabela student journalists call to defend press freedom, stop charter change

By NATHANIEL FABIAN
www.nordis.net

SANTIAGO CITY — Editors-In-Chief and staff of diferrent publications in Isabela expressed dismay over the recent attacks on media outfits and opposition to the proposed charter change last Feruary 16 during the city-wide forum On Press Freedom and National Situation stages by College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).

DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM. Student journalists in consulation after the city-wide forum On Press Freedom and National Situation last February 16 in Santiago City. Photo by Mark Canta

Campus editors recall the recent actions of the governent againts critical press entities and individuals. In January 15, Rappler’s registration was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This action is being described as a ‘part of a grand scheme for dictatorship’ by ABS-CBN Editor/Writer Inday Espina-Varona.

After three days, Interaksyon.com reports that National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) threatened to close 30 radio stations in Davao City for violating rules and regulations a week before a proposed ‘anti-terrorism’ lock down exercises in the said city. 

In February 4, alternative news wesites including kodao.org and bulatlat.com were attacked. In a statement by National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP, both media groups expressed outrage over the attacks that were allegedly initiated by Rodrigo Duterte’s “army of trolls” and hackers.

And then last February 20, Rappler’s Pia Ranada was barred from the Malacanang Palace to cover administration current affairs. 

These incidents sparked ugency among media entities and groupsto unite in defense of press freedom. Many protested against these continuous attacks againts the media.  

Major groups that manifest united stand include practitioner journalist organization National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), artist and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), oldest student publications’ alliance in East-Asia Pacific region College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and mainstream & alternative media such as Rappler, Inc. and AlterMidya. 

Charter ‘change’

Constituional Ammendments committee expressed wish to change the Article 3, Section 4 (Freesom of Speech) of the 1987 Constitution that to read as: “No law shall be passed abridging the ‘responsible exercise’ of freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Rappler cited the “resposible exercise” as unclear and thus gives the Duterte administration the access to define it and ‘grab hold of it’.

Charter change does not only alter the freedom of expression and of the press but also include the change in economic aspect (100% foreign land ownership, double-taxes, regional alterations in management of social services), political aspect (additional powers for dynasty-ruled provinces and regions, no-election scenario, extension of terms, centralization of legislative and judiciary to the executive position President) to name a few.

Still under pressure

Also, participants in the forum expressed worry on the charter change due the still existing conditions of their respective publications. Attending representations from Univerity of La Salette College and Senior Highschool, Northeastern College, Philippine Normal University – North Luzon, Quirino State University, and Isabela State University report campus press freedom violations which include administrative interventions over fiscal and management aspects, censorship over student issues and socailly significant issues, and harassment in verbal and emotional/psycological form.

The reports were as of February 16. 

“It is our utmost priority to serve our country by educating ourselves about these issues. We will not stop in defense of freedom of the press and mostly, democracy,” explains Pauline Saglongos, Cagayan Valley coordinator of National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), as she discusses on the Nationwide Situation.

Also, Bombo Radyo Cauayan reporters expressed solidarity to the advocacy of CEGP in a news report segment “Bombo Hanay Big Time’ last February 16. # nordis.net

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