Media repression, press freedom, impunity in the killing of journalists

·3 min read

[Cebu Citizens-Press Council position restated for International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (November 2, 2021), Cebu Press Freedom Week (September 19-25, 2021) and World Press Freedom Day (May 3, 2021).]

[1] THE DEBATE. The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) believes the debate on whether press freedom is curtailed in the country disregards or obscures this reality: Repression on media can be nakedly illegal or coated with the color of law, imposed in one fell swoop or in a series of random or calculated assaults.

And often partisan allegiance or unseeing loyalty to leaders tends to reject facts and logic. Thus, the exchange of allegation and denial between defenders of the administration and its critics has not produced clarity, much less resolution.

[2] DUTY OF MEDIA. Media cannot shirk from its duty to offer the facts and condemn any fabrication or twisting of facts. Fruitful discourse cannot happen if even what is known or proved to be true is brazenly scorned.

Journalism’s tradition of verification and fairness, supplying background and context, and its explanatory function shall be encouraged and sustained, more so that those virtues are absent in many published materials offered to media consumers. But media shall call out a claim of fact for what it is if it has no basis or proof or is clearly a lie.

[3] WHAT THE CEBU PRESS ASKS. CCPC has repeatedly said, and says again, that media practitioners are not special people and seek no special privilege when they clamor for protection against violence and harassment. Most of them ask for no more than what other citizens are rightfully entitled to under the law: a safe community in which they can do their job without unlawful retaliation for what they publish.

[4] CALL TO GOVERNMENT. CCPC believes that violence thrives mostly when the criminal goes unpunished, when the offender walks, free of the consequences of wrongdoing.

CCPC’s and CJJ Magazine’s updated 2021 list of media workers who were victims of violence and harassment carries the names of practitioners who were killed and whose families to this day are denied the redress they deserve. CCPC’s continuing call is for government to improve police, prosecution and judiciary services so as to curb rampant impunity, which obviously promotes a culture of violence, endangering safety and well-being of the community.

[5] MEDIA CONSUMERS’ STAKE. Media audiences need to recognize that repression of media erodes democracy’s institutions, the country and its people. Consumers of news and opinion have a tremendous stake in keeping free those whose work is to deliver information, which, for public interest and welfare, must not be influenced by violence or harassment.

[6] EXPOSURE OF REPRESSION. Repression of media—incipient or full-blown, open or concealed—requires to be exposed promptly by the news organization and its community. News of a killing or harassment against media needs to be given the widest publication. National or even international attention may help in prosecuting the offender, improving the local justice system, and protecting those still under threat.

[7] WHAT MAY HELP. A news organization’s exposure of any attempt to muzzle media won’t be enough. Official denial and timid witnesses can stymie investigation. This year’s shooting to death of two media workers—radio commentator Rey Cortes in Cebu City last July 22 and online media reporter/correspondent Orlando Dinoy in Davao del Sur last Oct. 30—reminds the public that criminal justice could be painfully slow.

What may help discourage the violence and reduce the impunity are (a) national attention on killing of journalists, especially when perpetrated in smaller communities outside Manila, and (b) world interest, such as the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for Rappler chief Maria Ressa, in efforts of the few Filipinos who resist attempted and actual repression of media.

Pachico A. Seares

Executive director

Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC)

Cebu City, November 2, 2021

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