UP College of Mass Communication Student Council Statement on the World Press Freedom Day

The UP College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) is one with the media organizations in the country and around the world who call for press freedom.

Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “[n]o law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” In essence, our constitution promotes press freedom as a right of every Filipino. However, the current situation of Philippine media shows otherwise.

The culture of impunity still continues, as more journalists get killed and the justice for the victims of such incidents is still not achieved. As of April 2012, 72 journalists were killed, seven of which happened during the Aquino administration. Almost all these killings were due to the fact that these journalists were not afraid to address their disgust against government officials, or reveal anomalies in their local government. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked the Philippines as the third most dangerous country for journalists.

Also, the relatives of the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre, the worst incident involving media workers to date, are yet to get the justice that they deserve. Two years and five months after the incident, 93 out of 196 suspects were jailed, and only two of the main keyplayers tagged in the crime have been arraigned. Even President Benigno Aquino III himself admitted that it will take years before the decision on the case would be made.

Aside from killings of journalists, libel laws are still used against journalists. These libel laws give those in power the freedom to sue a journalist should he or she say something that, for the former, seems to be derogatory. The libel laws give an indirect control among journalists because, once a guilty verdict has been made by the court, journalists are obliged to pay a huge amount of money as cost.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, which would enact Article III Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution (“The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.”) and give journalists the freedom to access public documents, is not yet passed. Aquino, during the campaign period for the 2012 presidential elections, said he would prioritize the passage of the FOI Bill. Nearly two years after he won the elections, no FOI Bill has been included in his priority bills. The 15th Congress, during their last day of session last year, would have passed the FOI Bill, if they reached the quorum.

Ideally, the Philippines promotes press which is independent from the control of those in power and primarily serving the people by telling what the public needs to know. But given these circumstances, the Philippine press is experiencing repression which is contradictory to what the constitution wants media to be.

As future media practitioners who would be entering the industry after graduation, we want a free press. We do not want to be trapped in a culture of media wherein we have to refrain from telling the truth as it may cost our own lives. We want, and need, to serve the people, and as media practitioners, we can do that by telling the truth – the truth that the Filipino people should know, and not the truth created by a few. And we do not want to wait after graduation to address our call for press freedom – as Mass Communication students, if we do not fight right now, we would be the ones experiencing media repression in the future. The problem would not end, and the cycle would continue.

In celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, we, the CMCSC, in behalf of all the students of the UP College of Mass Communication, register our call for press freedom. We support all the media organizations in the country and all over the world who want to stop media repression.