“If you do not involve the public in your problem, then you cannot practice what you preach.”
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA — Renowned journalist safety expert Abeer Saady reiterated the importance of collective movement in protecting truth tellers during a pandemic in a webinar hosted by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines, Oct. 27.
“The power of collective action and collective movement is the key,” said Saady during the webinar attended by Filipino women journalists, particularly from grassroots community media.
Even during the pandemic, Filipino journalists continue to face attacks as they reported on inadequate social protection for those vulnerable to the dreaded virus. Among the common attacks that have been documented is the widespread red-tagging and vilification campaign. Filing of trumped up charges against journalists has also been documented amid the pandemic.
Saady said journalists should flag these attacks by informing the public, and informing them why these arrests are not only their problem, but is also of the community’s.
“Reach to your community, tell them why this issue is also a part of them,” she said.
Communities, Saady added, are the ones that can protect journalists the most. With the community knowing firsthand on how the media organization has reported on and for their interests, the perpetrators’ attempts to “character-assassinate” journalists will fail because they would be the first to defend them, she said.
According to Saady, the protection of journalists should automatically fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities.
“But that is not what’s happening; which is really weird and un-right,” said Saady, pertaining about Negros-based journalist Anne Krueger, who was among those arrested during the simultaneous raids in October 2019 in Bacolod City.
Krueger, who was released after posting bail, was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. She was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army.
Apart from Krueger, Iloilo-based journalists were also arrested during the pandemic, including Crimson Labinghisa, one of the board members of IAWRT-Philippines.
Saady lamented the ‘character-assassination,’ or attempts to vilify journalists who have been critical in their reportage. In other countries, she said that journalists, too, are being accused of being drug dealers and terrorists.
Red-tagging has also led to filing of cyber-libel cases against journalists. Recently, Baguio-based alternative media Northern Dispatch editor-in-chief Kimberlie Quitasol and reporter Khim Abalos were charged with cyber-libel after months of receiving hate comments online, which heightened during the pandemic. Saady said Quitasol should reach out to her network among the community she works with and give them the tools to speak for her.
The webinar was co-sponsored by the Journalism and Media International Center of Oslo Metropolitan University.