For eight years, President Arroyo has unleashed a torrent of oppressive policies and suppressive actions in the name of an illegitimate political leadership. Media practitioners, just like innocent citizens, are not spared from her vicious doings. From media warnings to baseless arrests, the press has experienced almost any imaginable form of suppression under her term. Far more alarming is the fact that the current culture of intimidation and suppression against members of the press has seeped into the confines of the university, hitting even future media practitioners.
ARROYO’S DEADLY SINS
AGAINST THE PRESS
Even international media called it “outrageous.” In 2005, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, filed 45 libel suits against members of the press. This is no less than sheer abuse of the criminal nature of the libel law in order to create a political power field that proves injurious to the spirit of free press and democratic coverage of the excesses of the country’s First Family.
Our country is next only to Iraq in being the most dangerous place to practice journalism. Since 2001, the number of journalists killed has reached 59, with majority of these cases still unresolved. A climate of impunity is created, sending a chilling effect to media practitioners and to the public that witnessed the figures climb. Despite such cases, the Arroyo regime has remained callous to the demands to track and prosecute the suspects and has instead pursued a string of fascist policies.
The raid of the Daily Tribune office last February 25, 2006 is a reminder of the government’s willingness to engage in outright attacks against the press. Newspapers and photos were gathered for allegedly containing elements that may stir “destabilization.” Such fascist behavior proves to be indicative of its future tendencies.
Human Security Act
More than just an anti-terror law, the Human Security Act has lodged into the hands of the regime legal power to pry into private correspondence. With the state Big Brother at work, the confidentiality of the source is undermined, while implicating journalists to crafts of subversion becomes easy for the Arroyo regime. Such powerful act is clearly antithetical to the democracy proclaimed by the public.
Outright handcuffing and arrest
So far, the Manila Peninsula stand-off is witness to the regime’s extreme fascist behavior against the media, handcuffing and arresting more than 30 journalists which did not happen even during the dark days of Martial law. Footages were confiscated while authorities put the blame on the part of the media practitioners. Such insidious logic discourages any more attempt to invoke the public’s right to know in such emergency cases.
Not content with HSA, the Arroyo regime has resorted to more legal tricks to stifle the free-wheeling press by sponsoring media advisories that prohibit media coverage of emergency cases such as that of the Manila Peninsula stand-off.
INSIDE THE ACADEME:
Quite disturbingly, the cases of suppression of free speech and basic rights in the university parallels that in the national situation, as the democratic rights and academic freedom is put in peril. Topping the list is the passage of the 300 percent tuition fee increase that bars would-be media practitioners from entering the academe. Worse, a pro-commercialization UP Charter has laid out a roadmap to more tuition and laboratory fee hikes, born out of the Arroyo regime’s disregard for the education sector.
At the college where free expression is supposed to be conferred with high regard, assaults against academic freedom have proven injurious to the free exchange of views. The surveillance incident last year of a group of students at the CMC veranda inevitably served as a prelude to the Human Security Act that was to be implemented around that time. The exorbitant rental fees such as that of the CMC auditorium, meanwhile, has discouraged meaningful discussions on such socio-political issues. In effect, the local setting has been a site of the same repressive conditions experienced by journalists outside the university.
As future media practitioners, the challenge for us is to stand up against these forms of intimidation and repression, for we cannot afford to enter an institution laden with fear and restraint. Voices of dissent and indignation must fill the air rather than toxins of state coercion. We must collectively cry out loud and shake the ground. And from where she stands, Gloria Arroyo, by then, will and must be alarmed.
Uphold Press Freedom! Oust Gloria Arroyo!
Alagad ng Midya,
Magmulat, Maglingkod, Makibaka!
Student Alliance for the Advancement
of Democratic Rights in UP-CMC Chapter