By IVAN LABAYNE
How far can one go in the defense of what they believe, for what they think to be right and just? For campus journalists, supposedly vanguards of students’ rights which they uphold mainly through their writings, how far can they go when their freedom to write for such cause is attacked?
As the local chairperson of the only national alliance of tertiary publications, I constantly interact with fellow campus journalists who I often idealize to be the ones who breathe to the wee hours of morning to finish a banner article about tuition fee increase or go to an administration office in tempered rage and justified assertiveness when the release of their funds is delayed.
But what I actually come to face are seemingly normal students who just happened to be in the school publication, by sheer talent or noticeable determination, juggling academics and their many extra-curricular activities which the publication work is only a part of.
Yet even beyond what is readily perceptible on the surface, any one among these campus journalists I habitually interact with could be that one who looks at a “No laptops allowed” policy as a manifestation of the Administration’s repressiveness, or the one who could have written the editorial seeing Pnoy’s Conditional Cash Transfer as yet another band-aid solution to the worsening condition of the people or the one who looks at Lady Gaga as the best icon for cultural capitalism cloaked by the globalization and cultural exchange slogan.
What they own at the foremost is the pen, and with its every stroke is the potential to influence the opinion of their readers, and further, to prod them into meaningful actions. Coupled with a critical eye at what is happening around them, the potential of the pen can be furthered to pointing out what is going awry and inspire others to do something. What comes beside this point is the inevitable scenario where one other party might feel offended or attacked by an article that only seeks to uncover a true happening.
When all possible retaliations are imagined, we could see the party lashing back, or if the more discreet one, simply ignores what was written, or if feeling defensive of a bruised ego or a stinky secret revealed, blatantly files a libel case.
Recently, the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of Outcrop, the official student publication of UP Baguio has been charged with a libel case by a faculty member in the campus. This came after a lampoon article came out in the publication where they wrote of an incident where someone supposedly “insensitive to noise” scolded a student who was taking pictures during the walkout in UP Baguio.
The EIC confirmed on the 18th of January that she received a warrant of arrest and that if she was not able to post bail amounting to 10,000 pesos before the 19th, she could be rightfully arrested by authorities. Immediately after knowing this, the EIC, with the Outcrop staff, began soliciting for monetary contributions from other students and organizations and among themselves, but first explaining what has happened and where the money shall be used. Likewise, they began contacting Outcrop alumni and informing them of the case and the need to raise such amount. Again, the response was overwhelming and in time, they have collected nearly half of the bail amount. It should be noted that the 10,000 bail amount was reduced to half upon a motion from the EIC’s side.
Last minute contacting and negotiations had to be made for the exact amount to be reached and given the financial statuses of the side of the accused, there is hardly any certainty that the bail can be posted and the EIC be prevented from being arrested. On Wednesday night, confirmed pledges from Outcrop alumni gave a slight assurance: we can raise the amount needed to post bail in the Justice Hall tomorrow. And so on Thursday, together with the full force of the Outcrop staff, representatives from some UP student organizations and CEGP, we awaited the prosecutor and the lawyer that should accompany us as we posted the bail money.
At around 3:00 in the afternoon, in the Justice Hall that seemed to have gone weary witnessing our initial struggle against a legal case, we posted bail. But not after counting the exact bail money which literally came in hands full of coins, from ten peso ones down to single pesos and centavos.
The attendant at the window where we were supposed to give the bail money was perhaps both in shock and in awe at the sight of: young students who are supposed to be grappling with school requirements and some thinker’s notable ideas, and not counting coins in front of their window to post bail for a libel suit filed against one of our fellows.
After counting the money, grouping them by hundreds, and handing them to the attendant, we were finally relieved. Initial struggle hurdled, warrant of arrest made ineffectual. We looked forward to meeting the attorney who gave us some congratulatory smiles and handshakes before telling us what should be prepared for the next schedule.
An arraignment has been done and on this 28th of February, would be the schedule for the presenting and marking of evidences; then on the 7th of March, the pre-trial would commence. The call remains the same up to now: defend campus press freedom, no to harassment and abuse of authority.
The students and other supporters in this case, and supporters of campus press freedom have first shown their unflinching solidarity, even with that little gesture of contributing their meager funds for the bail money, fellow campus journalists from other schools have already given a support statement. A lot more things can be done and this only proves that this is not a fallen case. This is a case that would only show how far the bearers and defenders of campus press freedom can go when their right is attacked. Because when a vessel of information and purveyor of alternative views is assailed, not only the right to expression is transgressed, the people’s right to information is likewise ignored. And that is an opportune time for the writers to begin joining in. in the battle beyond pens and words. # nordis.net