“The reason we have peaceful lives is that there are people like Icy who are continuously fighting for our rights.”
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA — Various media groups, along with friends and colleagues of arrested journalist Lady Ann Salem, launched the #FreeLadyAnnSalem network today Dec. 18, to call for her immediate and unconditional release.
“My sister never took arms, she does not know how to use a gun,” Jasma Salem told the media, “She is a journalist and I do not find anything wrong with that.”
Salem, editor of alternative news Manila Today and communications officer of the international board of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, was among those arrested in the simultaneous police raids last Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. Various human rights and media organizations both here and abroad have since assailed her arrest and continuing detention. She is facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Shao Masula, her friend from UP Repertory described Salem as a very thoughtful person. Masula also said that Salem was among those who exposed the plight of GMA 7 talents years ago, and commended how members of the alternative media continue to amplify voices of the marginalized.
“The reason we have peaceful lives is that there are people like Icy who are continuously fighting for our rights,” said Masula.
Salem’s lawyer Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the circumstances of Salem’s arrest is familiar.
“The police will raid the residence, and then the people living inside the house will be forced to turn their backs while they search. It gives the police the chance to plant evidence inside their homes,” Conti said during today’s press conference at the University of the Philippines.
The Philippine police, in its statement sent to the media, said the simultaneous raids were to go after gun-running syndicates. However, Conti pointed out that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict branded the arrested journalist and six other trade unionists as top-ranking communist leaders.
“It’s very hard to win these cases– mostly because the public has already painted the victims as criminals and communists,” said Conti, adding that it is important to counter such allegations before the court and “remind them that our right to free speech is sacred and should not be trampled with.”
A free press will not be muzzled
The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Philippines expressed their support for the network and are humbled see how Salem united so many individuals and organizations to vouch for her integrity, despite the many attempts to paint her as a “gun-wielding criminal.”
They also highlighted how many women journalists– along with another colleague, Frenchiemae Cumpio, who was also arrested for similar charges, are continuously being subjected to various attacks for reporting what is right and what is true.
“May this gathering be the start of a fruitful journey where we can free Icy and also ensure that truth-tellers will never have to fear for their lives and safety,” said the group.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called Salem’s arrest as a clear assault on the foundations of democracy and a way for the Duterte government to send a message to all critical media: shut up or we will shut you up.
But the group said they remain steadfast as they call for the public to resist the continuous attempts of the government to silence truth-tellers in order to bend the narrative in their favor. Among those who signed in the NUJP statement are 81 journalists and 27 media institutions, including award-winning and veteran journalists Inday Espina Varona, Ed Lingao, Atom Araullo, Ellen Tordesillas, John Nery, to name a few.