“Masked Media” campaign fights government’s muzzling of press freedom

Sep. 22, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Journalists launched a “Masked Media” campaign during the 48th anniversary of the Martial Law to symbolize their continuing defense of press freedom under threat by the Duterte administration.

The campaign was launched by the National union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in an activity last September 21 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, as they honored journalists who defended press freedom and democracy during the Marcos dictatorship.

“We launch the ‘Masked Media’ campaign, not just to remember that dark incident in our history but also to send out the message that today, we face the same renewed efforts by another government, one led by an unabashed fan of Marcos, to suppress freedom of the press and pervert the truth,” the NUJP statement on the launching reads.

“But we remember the past not in defeat or resignation, but in the spirit of those who defied the dictator, from the clandestine mosquito press, to the alternative media of the time. Today, we honor them. And as we do so, we honor the people whose thirst for the truth they served and who, in turn, helped protect them; the people who would, in the end, rise up and throw off the shackles of tyranny,” the group added.

The campaign includes a specially-designed “Masked Media” face masks that will be sold online, where proceeds would go to the Defense Fund for Filipino Journalists that supports journalists facing legal charges.

NUJP secretary-general Dabet Panelo said that under Duterte’s administration, 24 journalists, most of which are community journalists, are facing libel charges. The latest is the reported cyber-libel complaints against Baguio-based alternative news outfit Northern Dispatch’s editor-in-chief Kimberlie Quitasol and reporter Khim Abalos. Some journalists also had been subpoenaed for their online posts during the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government thumbed down the franchise renewal of the country’s biggest broadcast network ABS-CBN, resulting to the closure of its regional stations, depriving regions of the presence of a community station.

Journalists continued to be killed in the country with radio commentator Jobert Bercasio in Sorsogon marked as the 17th journalist killed under the Duterte administration.

“When journalists are being muzzled, the right of people to information will also disappear. When you defend press freedom, you defend your right to know,” Panelo said.

The NUJP also slammed the red-tagging of journalists and media outfits by security forces all across the regions. The group is among the many organizations that petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Anti-Terrorism Act for provisions that go against the Constitutional provisions that protect human rights.(davaotoday.com)

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