By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Friday, February 23, has been a very important day for journalists – both in the Philippines and abroad.
First, Friday was an important day, it was declared the international day of action against impunity and for the safety of Filipino journalists by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to which the NUJP is an affiliate. Data shows that since 2001, 50 journalists were extra-judicially killed. And, the killing continues… the latest is our colleague from Sultan Kudarat – Hernani Pastolero, an editor of the Lightning Courier.
The issue on the killings of journalists is elevated on this international day of action, as no country claiming to be democratic has the record of having the most journalists killed in one given presidential term. The record of war-torn Iraq was even surpassed by the Philippines’ number of journalists killed.
As a show of solidarity to our call for justice for our killed colleagues and our call for the administration to end the killings, media practitioners from Baguio to Davao adopted various activities. Baguio media wore black t-shirts while performing their task to bring information to the public. It may be a little concerted act, but it serves its purpose to relay our message: Stop The Killings!
Second, Friday was an important day as it was the eve of GMA’s Proclamation 1017. Known as the emergency power, it served as a tool to suppress press freedom – like the PNP repressive act of almost closing The Tribune and threat to close other media outlets. Its constitutionality was questioned up to the Supreme Court where it was declared that the repression against the media is an act against the constitution. It was a day for us journalists for the recollection of our victory and to reiterate to the administration that press freedom repression has no space in a democratic country.
But most of all, Friday served as a day to consolidate our ranks to continue fighting for press freedom. It was a day of renewing commitment against any enactment that suppress press freedom under the guise of terrorism.
Third, Friday was a day to remember: 21 years ago, the Filipino people including the media unseated a dictator via a People Power I Revolution. It is a day to treasure – the re-establishment of democracy where: A new constitution was drafted and overwhelmingly ratified by the people. Restoration of Congress through a bicameral congress; Restoration of an independent minded judiciary; realization and exercise of the freedoms incorporated under the bill of rights, including the practice of free press, regaining its brand as the most-free press in Asia.
Friday was a day of reflection, however to particularly ask this question: Are these gained freedoms 21 years ago a reality under the present dispensation? That can be answered by comparing the post People Power I administrations from that of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the latter administration has the worst human rights record. The extra-judicial killings committed under this administration is a proof, as verified by the preliminary report of United Nations Special Rapporteure on extra-judicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions.
Thus I reiterate that Friday indeed is a very important day for us journalists and the Filipinos. It make us renew our commitment not only for the call to stop political killings but to re-establish a society where democratic rights are a reality, particularly the right to life and free expression. #