Here is Ka Satur Ocampo's message to journalists marking World Press Freedom Day today May 3.
Ocampo is a lifetime member of the National Press Club and board member of the Antonio Zumel Center for Press Freedom. Prior to martial law, he was a staffwriter and later assistant business editor of the Manila Times, president of the business reporters association and vice president of the NPC. He was the longest-held political prisoner of the Marcos dictatorship. He is also a former CEGP vice president and recipient of the Marcelo H. Del Pilar Award, the CEGP's highest award.
Message to Fellow Journalists
By Satur C. Ocampo
May 3, 2006
World Press Freedom Day is an opportune time for Filipino journalists to take stock of the terrible situation now facing the profession and the nation.
This year, three names have already been added to National Union of Journalists of the Philippines' roll of journalists who died on duty, bringing to 76 the number of our colleagues who have died since 1986. Most of those murdered were community or provincial journalists who remain largely unprotected from those who have the money and guns to permanently silence those who dare expose and oppose all sorts of perfidies especially in government.
An equally dangerous enemy of journalists and the people is the emerging fascist dictatorship personified by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Mrs. Arroyo and her minions have minced no words castigating the critical press as an alleged accomplice of the "enemies of the state". She has even gone to the extent of allowing the raiding of the Tribune's editorial office, the surveillance of journalists, and the previous deployment of military and police personnel at the gates of the two biggest broadcast networks. The Philippine National Police has also brazenly sought to impose police "guidelines" for the media, which should only be viewed as an insult to all journalists and the Filipino people.
We must reject the impertinent notion that criticizing Mrs. Arroyo equals destabilizing the State, because Mrs. Arroyo is not the State. We must expose and reject what amounts to "special treatment" Mrs. Arroyo demands from the press. This includes turning a blind eye to, or not pursuing stories or writing commentaries on the question of Mrs. Arroyo's illegitimacy and usurpation of the presidency, on the sham economic performance reports, on the ridiculous coup rumors emanating from government that are being used to justify authoritarian measures abridging the rights of journalists and the people, and on the nationwide campaign of political persecution of Mrs. Arroyo's critics especially those from the Left.
This is not "special treatment". This is censorship and prior restraint. This is a violation of press freedom.
What should be the response of Filipino journalists?
I enjoin you to recall the names of journalists like Antonio "Antumel" Zumel, Joaquin "Chino" Roces, Teodoro "Teddy" Locsin, Sr., Ernesto "Ernie" Granada, Antonio "Tony" Nieva, and Jose "Joe" Burgos, Jr. Let us remember and learn from the epic fight they led for the restoration of press freedom, against the fascist Marcos dictatorship.
They did not surrender to the dictatorship. They fought its lies. They faced down military and police personnel who sought to scare them. Some were jailed by the dictator, but their belief in press freedom never waned. More importantly, the journalists merged with the larger and more powerful mass movements of common people like workers, farmers, other professionals, women, youth, and others. That movement spawned a new, alternative press. Berated by the dictator as a mere "mosquito press", these dedicated journalists and their outlets reported directly to the people, put the people's actions and movements at the top of the news, and exposed to the entire nation the rottenness of tyrants and tyranny.
One murdered journalist is one too many. I urge all press organizations to unite and endeavor to stop the violent attacks on our ranks. An attack on one is an attack on all. But more importantly, we owe it to the Filipino people whose rights to free speech and to free exchange of information form the bases of our profession's right to press freedom.
The Arroyo government's growing authoritarianism must be checked decisively. Journalists and all members of the press have a crucial role by defending the people's right to information and press freedom. We should continue to search for the truth, despite the brazen and sometimes brutal ways resorted by those in power to conceal it. We must continue to expose scandals, the stench of which almost always emanate from Malaca�ang, La Vista or the LTA Bldg. We must resist moves to censor or curtail all media. We must reject the media guidelines foisted on us by the PNP. We must demand that the PNP end the surveillance of some our colleagues, and lift the Department of Injustice's threats of persecution.
Dear journalist colleagues, let us close ranks with all other organizations, sectors and movements defending press freedom, civil liberties and human rights. Only when we pursue press freedom as a vital national issue can we rally the majority behind our just demands, and ensure the defeat of the Enemies of Truth and Press Freedom. ###