By JEOFFREY MHAR LARUA
BAGUIO CITY — Tackling issues on press freedom and “fake news”, a group of nationalist artists and writers, held a forum February 22, at the University of the Philippines Baguio.
Organized by the local chapter of the nationwide arts and media alliance, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), the forum aimed to help people appreciate their right to information and expression and the truth in the time of massive disinformation.
Inday Espina-Varona, one of the guest speakers in the said forum said that the Duterte administration and its govenment funded, well-oiled machinery of lies and misinformation has been leading an assault against the press and the people’s right to free expression. She reiterated that any attack against journalists is an attack against the people right to information.
“Let us not call them fake news, let us call them what they are, they are lies, outright disinformation,” she said.
Varona further said that there is other way to combat lies, disinformation and misinformation but to tell the truth. She also encouraged the public to fact check and not to believe everything on face value.
Varona noted that Duterte’s “rage” against journalists critical of him is proportional to his fear.
“He fears a free journalist, he fears a free people,” she added.
Tonyo Cruz, a blogger and journalist who also spoke during the forum said that the Duterte administration’s campaign to silence the press is not new. He said that silencing the press and curtailing freedom of espression has always been in the arsenal of all tyrants.
“Marcos did the same thing before when he shut down news outlets, student publications, silenced voices,” he said.
It can be recalled that when the late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, he immediately closed down media institutions that were critical of martial rule.
Cruz pointed out that Marcos like other tyrants around the globe was toppled by people power. He said that this is the message of the EDSA uprising on February 25, 1986; that a well-informed and organized people can end tyranny.
“We toppled a tyrant 32 years ago who was intellectually superior than the tyrant we have now, and we can do it again,” Cruz said.
Cruz said everyone can contribute to putting an end to tyranny.
Actress Mae Paner, more popularly known as Juana Change called on artists to engage and lend their voice to those silenced by the present administration’s violent and anti-people policies. She called on artists to step up and use their craft to tell the truth about the present administrations true nature.
Paner also related her weight loss journey to her way of protest. “When I was still 275 lbs, there came a point I questioned why I kept on doing this [protesting],” she said. “I realized that as we create a new and better [version of ourselves], we are creating a new reality for our country.”
“The power of your own narrative — that’s part of the equation in achieving the change we want,” Paner said. She encouraged creative protest.
Paner, in 2017, faced threats from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after using a military uniform for her protest. She also mounted the play “Tao Po” which reflected stories of victims of Duterte’s drug war. # nordis.net