by: Danielle Bryn J. Anos || Photo Credit: Joxyne Gravoso
Earlier this year, on April 13, 2022, 16th President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law a bill declaring August 30 of every year as National Press Freedom Day. The irony is quite thick, isn’t it?
It is said that press freedom in the Philippines is protected and preserved, yet the shutdown of the biggest news source in the country says otherwise. In some regions of the Philippines, ABS-CBN is the main—and sometimes the only—source of information, especially during times of calamities. The termination of such a large broadcasting company is a hit to press freedom and a huge loss for the Filipinos.
However, the ABS-CBN shutdown is not the only incident where the freedom of the press was not defended. Rappler, another distinguished news site in the country, was recently ordered by the government to shut down, just as Former President Rodrigo Duterte was stepping down from office. The hostility between Rappler and the 16th President of the Philippines is not a concealed fact. The news site’s co-founder and Nobel Peace Prize Awardee, Maria Ressa, had even faced several criminal charges for reporting Former Pres. Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.
In fact, there have been many cases where journalists were victims of various forms of harassment or even murder. So much so that in 2022, the Philippines placed 147 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The standing cases of press freedom suppression in the Philippines are disheartening. It is as if journalism is a crime, as if amplifying the voices of the unheard is an offense. As a student journalist, I find it frightening how one can get persecuted on unfair grounds and find it absurd how the rights of the press are taken away for being critical.
With the state of press freedom today, we come to ask: What will become of those who aspire to seek and speak the truth? Or of those who dream of seeing a better future for the country?
As we celebrate National Press Freedom Day, be reminded that one must not be so quick to vilify the country’s journalists. Word spreads like wildfire, and therefore, it is only right and safe to authenticate the information that one shares.
To all bearers of truth, remain standing for what is right and real. No one, not even the highest officer of a nation, should take away the freedom of the press or anybody. At the end of the day, facts remain to be facts.
To the leaders of the country, we beg that you do not strip away these rights from your people. After all, there would not be much left of democracy without press freedom.
We at The Science Net honor the vital role that the press plays in our democratic society. As student journalists, we pledge to uphold our ethics in our intrepid pursuit of the untarnished truth.
May we celebrate National Press Freedom Day with a vision of a country where speaking the truth is praised and not threatened.