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Editorial

There are no words

/ 05:12 AM February 02, 2019

There must be a word for someone who turns his back on his old profession and former colleagues to pursue a personal benefit. Some words come to mind: traitor, betrayer, double-dealer, Judas, quisling, sellout, defector, rat, snitch, and, appropriately for someone who once worked in media, talebearer.

Traitorous indeed is how his colleagues in media consider the remarks of Jiggy Manicad, a former broadcaster who resigned his post to run for senator initially under the PDP-Laban, but who now conducts his campaign as an independent, but beneath the “big tent” of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago headed by presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

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Manicad’s current notoriety stems from his remarks aired in interviews and in an appearance on a TV show. Asked about the “threats” to press freedom under the Duterte regime (fully apropos given his profession), Manicad denied that any such threat existed. The current troubles that news website Rappler confronts, he added, are “isolated” instances and could be traced to violations of the constitutional ban on foreign ownership of media.

But Manicad seems to forget that it isn’t just Rappler, which is contesting the charges leveled against it in court, that is under increasing government scrutiny and pressure. Among the beleaguered media entities are this newspaper, news website Bulatlat and broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, whose franchise is up for renewal.

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In an “open letter” online, journalist Joel Pablo Salud said that if the pressures exerted on media entities do not constitute an attack against press freedom, “what about harassment? Intimidation? Perfect words to describe what is going on behind the scenes.”

The Duterte regime’s moves against independent media go way beyond investigations into financial anomalies or ownership issues. A joint statement of the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network points out that there have been 99 documented cases of direct and indirect assaults against journalists and media organizations in the first two years of the Duterte administration. These include at least 12 killings of media workers, seven attempted slayings, three arrests and six cases of intimidation.

The network which issued the statement is a grouping of respected and credible media entities, including the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, MindaNews and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Moreover, a report released last December by the International Federation of Journalists ranked the Philippines as the “worst in impunity” in Southeast Asia. The country ranked 7.7 out of 10, with 10 being the worst. The country’s justice system was rated separately, with a ranking of 7.5 out of 10.

To be sure, media professionals have come under attack in previous years and under previous administrations. Indeed, while officials have always reacted with alacrity to news of the killing of media people, including the 32 journalists among the 58 people killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, the state’s track record in identifying, arresting and sentencing the guilty is dismal at best. But the current administration doesn’t even take the trouble to express alarm, and even hints that some victims deserved their fate.

But to have a former brother in the trade betray the ideals of the profession, including adherence to accuracy at least, cuts to the quick. Manicad is no newbie to the trade, having been a broadcaster for more than a decade, and is surely familiar with if not devoted to the principles of his former profession.

Surely, he must have adhered at one time in his life to the avowed duty of journalism, which is to hold the government to account and speak truth to power. How, then, can he utter such an indefensible argument as, “if it’s an attack against press freedom, ang tanong is, sino ba ang una nag-attack (…the question is, who attacked first)?” What do we call a journalist who not only denies the difficult circumstances of his profession these days, but also appears to support efforts to persecute journalists and institutions whose only crime has been to do their job—to speak truthfully and boldly against abusive government?

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There are no words.

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TAGS: broadcaster, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Jiggy Manicad, journalist, Media, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Senate
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