If our colleagues in the frontline of public debate do not take the risk, then the barbarians have won.” That is a French woman journalist speaking in the documentary on the mass shooting of the staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo carried out by terrorists in Paris in January 2015.
The administration has made good its threat against Rappler, the online news and investigative media platform that has been critical of the Duterte presidency (oh, but that is not all it does). How? Citing foreign ownership, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is revoking Rappler’s certificate of incorporation. Which means Rappler is no longer licensed to operate. Which means Rappler would be shut up and shut down.
“Harassment!” Rappler cried. For Rappler there is still time and a chance for appeal and prove the accusation wrong — that Rappler is, in fact, owned by Filipinos.
Although there has always been a proverbial sword hanging over Rappler these past many months, the SEC’s shocker three days ago still caught many by surprise. But after surveying the sorry landscape littered with rolling heads from various agencies (as in the cases of Commission on Higher Education Chair Patricia Licuanan and of two in the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board), many of us, stunned and angry, can only interject: It was to be expected; the iron hand has unsheathed the sword.
Like wildfire the news spread and soon social media was fast sprouting memes.
Remember #iameverywoman after the slew of sexist presidential verbal attacks on women? And on the global scene, the Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) cry after the terrorist attack on the French publication Charlie Hebdo that killed 12, eight of them journalists.
A journalist-friend had gifted me with the publication “I Am Charlie: Editorial Cartoonists Honor Free Speech” that came out after the 2015 Paris tragedy. On the cover is a caricature of New York’s Statue of Liberty (a 1880s gift from the French people) wearing a black Je suis Charlie T-shirt and holding high, not her torch, but a pen.
Most of the 47 cartoons from 22 countries in “I Am Charlie” show pens, pencils and paint brushes as “deadly weapons” against extremists, despots and tyrants. One shows a huge pen planted on a dead armalite-wielding terrorist. On the pen are the words: “This machine kills fascists. Je suis Charlie.”
The other day, I took out a black T-shirt I have kept all these years. On it is a white drawing of an antique typewriter and the words, “VINCIT OMNIA VERITAS.” Truth conquers all. I photographed it and posted it on Facebook to add to the uproar over the Rappler case. I still have my vintage 1980s “Stop Harassing Journalists” T-shirt and two patches embroidered with “Don’t Shoot Journalists.” Relics of the past they are, indeed.
Journalism was under siege during the Marcos dictatorship and many of us fought hard, sometimes with risk to our personal lives. But there was no blocking the truth completely. There was the so-called mosquito press, publications from the church sector — “The Communicator,” “Various Issues,” “Signs of the Times,” “Ichthys.” Threaten one and two would sprout up, like wild mushrooms in a thunderstorm.
Remember how the Inquirer was being killed through an ad boycott in 2000, at the behest of the short-lived plunderous Estrada presidency? The Elvis look-alike president ended up doing “Jailhouse Rock.”
Je suis Rappler could well be our collective battle cry. If the administration succeeds for now in bringing Rappler to its knees, Rappler will surely rise again. And how. Je suis Rappler!
On the bright side, Gawad Kalinga (GK) is holding its fifth Social and Business Summit (Jan. 19-21) at its 43-hectare Enchanted Farm in Bulacan. Participants from different sectors will learn from one another.
Enchanted Farm is GK’s platform to raise social entrepreneurs, help local farmers, and create wealth in the countryside. GK is a nongovernment organization that pioneered in fast-tracking massive housing projects for the poor, but its founder Antonio Meloto believes that providing homes (hundreds of thousands) is merely a beginning on the road out of poverty, and that the country’s wealth of resources can be harnessed further so that every Filipino may live a life of dignity.
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