By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – Women journalists here and abroad are alarmed over how community media practitioners in the Philippines are bearing the brunt of the intensifying media repression as their colleagues are subjected to terror-tagging, arrested based on fabricated charges, and one forcibly disappeared and remains missing.
“Journalism is not a crime. Instead of targeting the messengers, the authorities should instead be investigating and dealing with the real perpetrators of violence, corruption and rights abuses,” said Violet Gonda, president of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT).
In an online protest titled, “Defending Women Truthtellers,” women journalists narrated how the terror-tagging have translated to graver rights abuses – including the filing of trumped-up cases and enforced disappearance. As of this writing, Tacloban-based community radio journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio is still in jail while Elena Tijamo, also a community journalist and development worker in Cebu, remains missing since she was disappeared three months ago.
Kimberly Quitasol, editor-in-chief of community paper Northern Dispatch, and Gie Herrera, station manager of Radyo Natin Guimba, are facing vilification campaign by state security forces in the Northern and Central Luzon, respectively.
New York-based IAWRT-US President Sheila Katzman said that while “journalism without fear and favor” was this year’s theme for the May 3 Press Freedom Day, journalists in the Philippines continue to live in fear.
“Will they come for me tomorrow? This is not the way to live,” said Katzman in a video message, adding that whether a media organization belong to the dominant or alternative tradition, its role remains crucial, especially when important decisions are needed such as in an emergency situation.
Gonda said she found it deeply concerning that with all of the troubles worldwide, they continue to hear reports of media repression. This, she said, is the same in many countries, particularly in countries in the global south. She called on authorities to put a stop to the attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.
“The role of the state is to promote democracy and good governance and allow dissenting voices to be heard,” she said.