Any journalist's silence amid attacks vs press the ‘biggest insult’

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Journalism professor Danilo Arao called on members of the media to be more outspoken against threats to press freedom, calling silence an “insult.”

“It would be the biggest insult for any journalist right now to be silent on the attacks on freedom kasi mahiya naman tayo sa ginawa ng mga peryodista noong panahon ng martial law from 1972 to 1986,” he said on Friday, February 8 in a press conference in Quezon City. 

(It would be the biggest insult for any journalist right now to be silent on the attacks on freedom because we should be ashamed given what journalists did during the time of martial law from 1972 to 1986.)

Arao said that at a time when values held dear by journalists are in danger, journalists should take a stand.

“The ethical obligation of the journalist during martial law was to fight the dictatorship. It was not unethical. It was very, very professional. That’s why much of the multi-awarded journalists and respected journliasts during the time of martial law, they went to the alternative media and some of them even went underground just to fight the dictatorship. I think we have to take that similar track right now. We have to fight for what we think is right,” he said.

He slammed former television reporter and anchor Jiggy Manicad, for instance, for saying the attacks against Rappler are isolated. 

Reminding Manicad of other attacks, such as Duterte’s threats against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN and cyber attacks against news website Bulatlat, Arao advised Manicad to “study more.”

Bulatlat’s server was bombarded by a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack in December and January, bringing down its website temporarily. Bulatlat’s editors believe the attack to be politically-motivated since it came after their coverage of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ founding anniversary

‘Deafening silence’ from Duterte’s media security group

Arao was also unimpressed by Duterte’s Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), a task force created by his first administrative order.

The Philippines has been dubbed as the deadliest country in Southeast Asia for journalists. At least 53 journalists were killed worldwide from January 2018 to December 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Headed by a former media man, Undersecretary Joey Sy Egco, the task force is supposed to monitor and act on security threats against Philippine media practitioners.

Yet PTFoMS’ “deafening silence” on Duterte’s tirades and threats against media means it has become nothing more than an apologist for the administration, said Arao.

“It has practically become an apologist of the Duterte administraiton given its deafening silence on what the President has said about the media. It’s like the usual line is just, Duterte is making fun of it and that he should not be taken seriously,” said Arao. 

But some of Duterte’s actions, such as “catcalling female reporters” should be “taken seriously as an affront to press freedom,” said the UP professor.

Arao was recalling an incident weeks before Duterte took his oath as president when he whistled at GMA News reporter Mariz Umali during a press conference.

Egco said he "respects" the views of Arao. He also defended his task force's work saying it "delivers results highly recognized and appreciated not only by local agencies and media groups but by international bodies as well." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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