“If we recall, during the Marcos dictatorship, the first thing he did was to suppress the media.
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA — Youth groups and students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines marched out of their classes to join a Unity March calling for press freedom, democracy, justice and human rights on February 21 at the Freedom Park, PUP Mabini Campus.
“It is the duty of the media to report and become the voice of the people, the minority, the workers who are being forced to be blinded, and forced to be silenced by the Duterte administration,” said Guia Sanchez, the current editor-in-chief of the progressive student publication The Catalyst.
Recently, the issue of press freedom in the country has been brought to the fore, following the cyberlibel charges filed against Rappler’s chief Maria Ressa and the the cyber-attacks being launched against independent and alternative news websites such as Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, Kodao Productions, and AlterMidya People’s Media Network.
Along with fellow progressive groups, Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag, the broadest and only alliance of student publications in the whole PUP system, joined the Unity March to call for a stop to the political persecutions against the media.
“It is very reminiscent,” Sanchez said on why the fight for press freedom is important, adding that “if we recall, during the Marcos dictatorship, the first thing he did was to suppress the media. As we can see, there’s no difference from then and now.”
The student journalist also pointed out the red-tagging of journalists late last year and the killings among the ranks of news media practitioners.
Campus journalism also under attack
The attempts to curtail press freedom in the country, Sanchez said, do not spare student journalists.
“Every year, there’s a growing number of publications dying under the university because of the loss of funding and facilities,” said Sanchez.
The Catalyst, as well as other student publications in PUP, are experiencing mass defunding causing student publications to be ejected from their offices and their papers to stop publishing.
Sanchez pointed out that the youth played a significant part in ousting the Marcos dictatorship, as seen during the First Quarter Storm. The youth of today, she added, could do the same and spark change.
“As they say, history repeats itself. It is possible for the youth of today to replicate what had happened during the First Quarter Storm,” she said, adding that the youth has a voice that helps shape public opinion and enlighten those who are in need.
Contrary to the infamous proposal of National Youth Commission chair Ronald Cardema to remove the scholarships of so-called “rebellious students,” Sanchez pointed out that the rights we enjoy today are “fruits of student activists’ collective actions.”