Pledging to continue the progressive tradition of alternative journalism, media groups banded together to better serve as “voices of the people.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA– Over a hundred journalists representing more than 30 independent media outfits attended the first national conference on alternative media held Oct. 9 and 10 at the University of the Philippines, College of Mass Communication in Diliman.
With the theme, “New Time, New Challenges: Strengthening the Voice of the People,” the two-day conference culminated in the formation of Altermidya, People’s Alternative Media Network.
Altermidya aims to strengthen the cooperation and coordination among alternative media outfits, harness the capabilities of independent media organizations in amplifying the voice of the marginalized sectors, among others.
Luis Teodoro, elected chairman of Altermidya, said the group’s formation would boost the role of alternative media in the Philippine society.
Teodoro said the alternative media provides the information that the dominant media does not provide. He said that the dominant media, given its corporate interests, could never be expected to perform the function of journalism well, which is to serve the interest of the public.
“Many journalists in the dominant media depoliticize the issues, contributing to the depoliticization of the audience,” Teodoro said. He stated as an example the coverage of corruption by the dominant media. “Dominant media outfits have failed to explain or even refused to expose the roots of poverty, corruption, political dynasties.”
In his keynote address, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chairman emeritus of the International Network for Philippine Studies, said that the combination of state psy-war and corporate advertising techniques perfected by the elite few is able to fabricate a whole universe of lies and pass them off as truths. He said that the anti-people media across the world and in the Philippines twist the news so brazenly, for example, as to canonize US imperialist aggression as “protection of human rights” and to provide the needed “fog-of-war” smokescreens for its false-flag attacks while demonizing mass resistance as “acts of terrorism.”
Continuing the tradition
The conference started with the presentation of the context and history of the alternative press in the country.
Teodoro traced the revolutionary tradition of the alternative media back to the colonial times, with the Propaganda Movement’s La Solidaridad and Katipunan’s Kalayaan. During the American colonial period, community press advocated for Philippine independence.
Edita Burgos, wife of the late Jose Burgos Jr. and general manager of the WE Forum and Malaya, and Lourdes Fernandez, former editor-in-chief of Malaya, recounted their experiences in countering the Marcos’s crony press.
Another speaker, Satur Ocampo, discussed the contributions of the underground press, particularly Ang Bayan, Taliba ng Bayan, Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas, among others, in the anti-dictatorship movement. Ocampo and his wife Carolina Malay served as writers for underground publications during martial law.
Benjie Oliveros, elected national coordinator of Altermidya and editor of Bulatlat.com, said the alternative media outfits today continue the progressive tradition of alternative press in the country.
Oliveros noted that the member-groups of Altermidya have been initiated by non-government organizations without business interests.
Synthesizing the reports, Oliveros said the alternative media organizations today have used all platforms – print, online, radio, video, social media – in performing their duty of providing alternative information and analysis on issues.
Among the participants are eight media outfits based in the National Capital Region, Northern Dispatch, Davao Today, Bicol Today, Radyo Sagada, radio programs in Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Albay, Davao, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Dumaguete, Cebu, Tacloban, Cagayan de Oro, video groups Southern Tagalog Exposure, Sine Panayano, Kilab Multimedia, among others.
Oliveros said that while it is positive that most of the alternative media outfits are being used as sources of news by dominant media practitioners, there is a need to widen the reach of alternative media organizations.
Sison said that by providing the facts and speaking the truth, members of the network establish their high prestige and credibility. He said that the people’s media must constantly expose and oppose the anti-people character, strategies, tactics, and the most arcane tricks of the imperialist media and the local reactionary media and how these spread outright lies and disinformation. Such critique, he said, should help to counter, weaken and defeat imperialist and reactionary propaganda.
Ampatuan massacre, FOI
Altermidya also took the opportunity to make a common stance on important issues affecting the media and the country.
The network adopted resolutions to mark the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre with protest, to fight for a genuine Freedom of Information bill, to continue the campaign against the Cybercrime Law and to support the strike of the Radio Mindanao Network-Davao Employees Union.