Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 33 September 21 - 27, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
as a Deterrent to Violence vs Media
in media will definitely ensure the protection of the economic rights and
welfare of journalists and other media workers. While it is not the solution to
media repression, the projection of media consolidation and organization through
unions will make unscrupulous individuals and groups think twice about harassing
and intimidating journalists.
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
the number of Filipino journalists killed since 1986 varies depending on the
media group that monitors the situation, the extent of media repression cannot
be ignored. (The discrepancy, after all, is mainly due to differences in the
definition of journalist.)
year, the Philippines already equaled Columbia in terms of number of journalists
killed, making both countries the most dangerous places in the world to practice
media groups agree that for the first nine months of 2003, six journalists have
been killed. They are John Belen Villanueva, Jr., (DZGB, killed last April 28);
Apolinario Pobeda (DWTI, killed last May 17); Bonifacio Gregorio (Dyaryo Banat,
killed last July 8); Noel Villarante (The Laguna Score/DZJV, killed last Aug.
19); Rico Ramirez (DXSF, killed last Aug. 20); and Juan Pala (DXGO, killed last
a time when harassment and intimidation are done subtly or overtly, it becomes
even more important to promote unionism in media. In the long run, it can help
deter media repression that journalists, especially those in the provinces, go
in media will not just help protect the economic rights and welfare of
journalists and other media workers. More important at this point, a projection
of media consolidation and organization will make unscrupulous individuals and
groups think twice about threatening journalists.
should be clarified, however, that unionism thus is not the panacea to the
current trend of violence against media. The establishment of the National Union
of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on 30 July 1988, for instance, did not
prevent the killing of journalists left and right. The NUJP, among others, helps
promote unionism among journalists.
the term of former President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), it is interesting to
note that 16 journalists were killed, according to Media for Peace which
consolidated data from NUJP and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
(CMFR). (Documentation by the Philippine Movement for Press Freedom revealed
however that the actual number of journalists killed during this period is 34.
Bulatlat.com has reported that the number of media persons killed since the
Aquino presidency has reached 71. )
present, increased violence against media happens at a time when unionism is
relatively weak and not consolidated. That perpetrators continue to threaten
journalists and do not have qualms about killing them is due to the current lack
of strong organization among media workers.
a stop to the killing, however, will demand more than unionism since the media
situation only mirrors the current trend of exploitation and oppression in
cannot divorce harsh realities in mass media from current moves to quell social
unrest, as manifested by the recent series of violent dispersal in Makati City
and Manila. Aside from this, the police also warned those who will stage protest
actions when U.S. President George Bush visits the country on Oct. 18 that they
would be dispersed if they do not have a permit to rally. A legislator even
mentioned that aside from tear gas and water cannons, rubber bullets could even
be used against demonstrators by that time.
to decriminalize libel
like cause-oriented groups and individuals, journalists are subjected to
harassment and intimidation, one of the most common being the filing of libel
libel is currently classified as a criminal act, a journalist can be easily
arrested and detained if a case is filed against him or her.
to decriminalize libel were largely ignored in the past, but one should stress
its importance now in order to ensure that its filing will not be done to
instill fear of arrest and detention among journalists.
service to press freedom
events show that the powers-that-be pay lip service to freedom of the press.
management of GMA Channel 7, citing editorial concerns particularly the lack of
documentary evidence, did not allow the airing last Sept. 16 of The Probe
Team’s episode on the “lifestyle check” of Philippine Amusement and Gaming
Corporation (PAGCOR) Chair and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Efraim Genuino. GMA
7 denied pressure from any interest groups and stressed that the episode will be
aired, provided that supporting documents particularly on Genuino’s
involvement in a number of corporations are presented. As of this writing, both
parties are trying to talk things out so that the said episode will be finally
Sept. 17, Valencia City Mayor Jose Galacia ordered the closure of dxMV Radyo
Ukay in Bukidnon. According to him, dxMV was being “used as (an) instrument of
political war by (a) certain broadcaster (thus) agitating the public on certain
public issues.” Various media groups denounced Galacia’s order and
consequently organized protest actions.
around the same time, Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong warned artists who
impersonate the President that they “could face criminal charges if they do so
in a malicious manner.” These statements could be considered a threat to press
freedom especially now that there are reports of destabilization plots against
to say, political satire is a manifestation of freedom of expression. It serves
to both entertain and give a critique of the goings-on in society.
Arroyo administration must not therefore vent its ire on entertainers who are
just doing their jobs and, being professionals, are aware of how far they can go
in their portrayal of the President.
not just employment
current situation should not discourage students from pursuing a career in
journalism and mass media. Even if most of those killed were provincial
journalists, it is hoped that mass communication graduates will still help make
a difference in the community press.
this point, both mass communication students and professional journalists must
keep in mind that journalism must not be seen as a ticket to fame, though the
prospects for it abound.
Journalism, after all, is not just a matter of employment but also an issue of commitment. And this commitment is not just measured by one’s resolve to make a difference individually, but by one’s solidarity with colleagues in the profession. Bulatlat.com