“Relive historical lessons:” On World Press Freedom Day 2022, Karapatan calls for rejection of Marcos-Duterte tandem

Photo by Karl Romano/BenarNews

Karapatan stands with journalists, media practitioners, and advocates of freedom of expression and press freedom in the Philippines and worldwide, in commemorating World Press Freedom Day 2022.

In the Philippines, World Press Freedom Day comes less than a week before the May 9 national and local elections. The role of the press, at this critical juncture, is important in upholding the rights of the people not only for truth and to vital information in the coming elections, but more importantly, for utmost vigilance beyond the 2022 elections.

As Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio remain the frontrunners in the recently released election survey, we are reminded of the horrors — or worse, and far more real, death — of press freedom in the country under the rule of the two administrations whose political dynasties seek to return in power beyond 2022.

Despite a supposedly free and democratic society, impunity on attacks against journalists have persisted. Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes, who is implicated in the murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega, is allowed to run for reelection — and under President Rodrigo Duterte, this climate of impunity and attacks on press freedom have only escalated.

The shutdown of ABS-CBN, which was first shut down when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law, is a blatant attack on press freedom and on the people’s right to acquire much-needed information and awareness amidst a public health and burgeoning socio-economic crisis. Digital media Rappler suffered blows from the Duterte regime through filing of legal cases, threats and harassment against its journalists. The arrest and continuing incarceration of community media practitioner Frenchie Mae Cumpio, red-tagging of journalists, and cyber-attacks on websites of alternative media sites as well as threats on fact-checkers have all been tell-tale signs of the administration’s crackdown on press freedom.

These systematic acts of the Duterte regime to shut down critics, at the same time that it implements a militarist policy and fascist terror against the people, is a chilling but brutal reminder that Duterte is doing a Marcos — and may continue to do so as his daughter vies for the second highest position in the land.

All these happen, almost five decades after Marcos’ martial law shut down media organizations, allowing only government-owned media while censoring all other media publications and programs. Marcos’ martial law normalized the brutal attacks against critics and political dissenters, including journalists — the very reason why now, any attack on press freedom brings back the horrors of the darkest period in the history of press freedom in the Philippines.

The Ferdinand Marcos Jr.-Sara Duterte tandem is clearly the biggest threat to press freedom now, and beyond the May 2022 elections. How Marcos Jr. banks on an active campaign of grand historical lies and historical revisionism, of fake news and distorted facts, of shutting down criticism and opposition, is only the tip of the iceberg of what a Marcos-Duterte presidency can do — even without a declaration of military rule — to perpetuate power.

This World Press Freedom Day, we enjoin the Filipino people to reject the Marcos-Duterte tandem in the upcoming May 9 elections. All press freedom advocates and defenders are called to relive the historical lessons, since the time of the Propaganda Movement to the mosquito press under martial law — all of which have become guideposts in the struggle for press freedom and genuine democracy in the Philippines.

We appeal to the Philippine press, media workers and journalists, to stand with the people as we fight against injustice, and for our hard-earned freedoms and rights. We ask for support in holding the Duterte regime accountable for its crimes, including the killing of journalists, of the prevailing impunity in the war on drugs and in the killings of activists and rights defenders.

There is no backing down with another looming tyranny in our midst, both representative of the spoils of a martial law and a “kill, kill, kill” presidency.

On World Press Freedom Day, we stand for our rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of the press, in the 2022 elections and beyond.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General