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Media Repression
Volume 20 Number 2
Thursday, 29 June 2006 00:00
Freedom of the press is one sacred right enshrined in the international human rights instruments. It is one of the pillars of democracy. Why then should a government, which professes adherence to principles of democracy, attack the media?
The present administration had been heavily laden with controversies from leftist, rightist, and centrist forces since the highly publicized Hello Garci tape. Unable to contain the growing unrest of the peoples, the President suddenly found a potent defense to silence all oppositions and ensure her survival – Proclamation 1017. On February 24, Proclamation 1017, a rehash of the Martial Law declaration 20 years ago, jolted the nation. The President tried to justify it as a necessary action to quell an alleged plot to unseat her from Malacañang by a reported alliance of leftists and rogues elements from the military. The Proclamation was lifted barely one week later when it came under heavy criticism from all fronts.
Among the first casualties of the heavy-handed Proclamation was the silencing of media entities critical to the President’s administration. The President blames what she alleged as imbalanced reporting that promotes destabilization efforts against her administration. Daily Tribune was raided and the police threatened to file charges of sedition against its publisher. DZRJ, an award winning radio station was clamped down the same day the Proclamation took effect. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has been under constant surveillance even after the lifting of the Proclamation especially after it ran in their website the Hello Garci tape. In an apparent threat of closure or filing of a case against irresponsible reporting, the National Telecommunications Commissioncame out with Media Guidelines to ensure discipline among the media.
The series of actions of the President and the ganging up of the military and police forces on media critical to the administration (along with arrests of opposition members of the House of Representatives and progressive leaders, and violent dispersals of every demonstration and rally) prove, in more ways than one, that there is a de facto Martial Law. The repeated denials from Malacañang only confirm, rather than diffuse the notion that the situation 20 years after EDSA I is still that of repression.
Prior to February 24, the media has already been the target of impunity. The International Federation for the Protection of Journalists identified the Philippines as one of the most dangerous placesfor journalists as it noted that since the beginning of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, there had been 44 journalists[1] who have been killed.
The State recognizes the importance of media in molding public opinion. Thus, it is not surprising if the government is threatened with how the media paints a picture of it. This is no reason, however, for the repression of press freedom. Any act directed towards the curtailment of the rights and freedoms of the press is a definite violation of the peoples’ right to information.

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