Journalists vow to continue telling the truth amid gov’t harassment

L-R Ezra Acayan, Jonathan Cellona, Basilio Sepe, Howie Severino (representing Atom Araullo), Maria Ressa, Fernando Sepe Jr., Inday Espina-Varona and Manuel Mogato receive the trophies and caricature from LODI. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

MANILA — Journalists have vowed to continue their work amid Duterte administration’s relentless attacks on press freedom during an event organized by media and arts alliance LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity), Dec. 6.

Dubbed Sikato! Sigaw para sa Katotohanan, Pagkilala sa Malayang Pamamahayag, the tribute held at Rappler’s office honored eleven Filipino journalists who were recognized by international groups for their reportage in the face of Duterte’s rising tyranny.

In a statement, Director Joel Lamangan of the LODI steering committee said, “We honor this crop of courageous and outstanding journalists to tell aspiring journalists and the public that great journalism is not a lost cause under the current dispensation. Far from it, we think the situation actually summons the best and most courageous in journalism so that media could exercise their rights and perform their duty to inform and consequently empower the Filipino people.”

The following journalists received recognition from LODI:

Inday Espina Varona: Prize for Independence winner, at the 2018 Press Freedom Awards of Reporters Without Borders

Maria Ressa: Winner of the 2018 Knight International Journalism Award and of the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award

Manuel Mogato: Pulitzer Prize winner for international reporting, for his series entitled “Duterte’s war”

Atom Araullo: awardee in the international awards for factual content of the Association for International Broadcasting, for his documentary entitled “Philippine Seas”

Fernando Sepe Jr., Jonathan Cellona, and Val Cuenca: awardee in the interactive category of the International awards for factual content, International Association for International Broadcasting, for their work entitled “Stories from the Under the Rubble: Inside the Battle of Marawi”

Jeff Canoy and Chiara Zambrano: won the Gold World Medal in the New York Festivals, and the Gold Dolphin for best documentary under the Current Affairs, Human Concerns and Social Issues category, 9th Corporate Media and TV Awards for their work “Di Ka Pasisiil”

Raffy Tima: won the Silver Screen Award from the US International Film and Video Festival for his work “Inside Marawi: A Report on 360 Video” Basilio “Eli” Sepe: winner of the International Photography Awards for his work “The Enemy in the dark”

Ezra Acayan: winner of the 2018 Grand Prize in the International Academic Forum Documentary Photography Awards for his work entitled “Duterte’s War on Drugs Is Not Over”, and of the Award for Achievement of the Ian Parry Scholarship.

Celebration of courage

The LODI event came a few days after a warrant of arrest was issued against Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa for tax evasion case.

Inday Espina-Varona receives the trophy and caricature. With her is satirist Mae Paner, artist Ted Camahalan and Director Joel Lamangan.

Earlier, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) warned government against pursuing plans to arrest Ressa.

“Arresting Maria will send a clear signal that the country’s democracy is fast receding under a feckless administration that cannot abide criticism and free expression and will go to ridiculous lengths to muzzle all those it does not agree with,” NUJP said.

The gathering was a celebration of courage.

In his speech, Jun Sepe said, “It’s always nice to get awards from colleagues because that’s where we also get courage.”

The younger Sepe said, “I believe it is my responsibility to tell the truth…The camera cannot lie. We were able to document what is really happening in the Philippines.”

Struggle for press freedom far from over

Varona said, “This year has been very tough for citizens and journalists. It has been a challenge, as Maria [Ressa] said, to hold the line. And as Raffy [Lerma] has said, bukas, makalawa, tuloy ang laban.”

In a solidarity speech, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon said journalists play an important role in the defense of democracy. He said that freedom of speech and expression are human rights.

Meanwhile, Philippine Star columnist and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo urged fellow journalists to continue to comment, to report, to advocate in the name of the people. “Every journalist must stand for the truth, for justice and for the people,” he said.

Honorees were given specially-made trophies handcrafted by multimedia artist, sculptor and painter Toym de Leon Imao, and a caricature drawn by noted artist Ted Camahalan.

Imao said the trophies are titled “Tenga at Pakpak”, inspired by the Filipino saying “may tenga ang lupa, may pakpak ang balita”. Imao explained: “The sculpture’s base takes the form of an ear to the ground while what appears like a sprout coming out from the ground is actually a combination of several symbols starting with the wings of a bird referencing an open book or a page of a newspaper with a quill, and shutter that forms an eye. The opposite side has the baybayin and normal script spelling out ‘LODI’. The bird symbolical of freedom of speech.

Giving their musical tributes are Rock Bato, Talahib Music Collective and Skarlet, vocalist of Put3ska.

Formed in December 2017, LODI is an alliance of artists, journalists and workers in the arts and media communities that seeks to defend press freedom and free expression in the face of Duterte’s attempts to install a dictatorship. (

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