‘Press Freedom Under Siege’ (Part 1)
Excerpts from the preface that I wrote for “Press Freedom Under Siege: Reportage that Challenged the Marcos Dictatorship” (University of the Philippines Press, 433 pages, 7” x 10”), soon to be launched, of which I am the editor and among the authors included:
“Those were years of writing dangerously, we would say. But, for a good few, fearless writing never really stopped completely during those dangerous times, though much of it done sub rosa or in the so-called ‘mosquito press,’ sometimes called alternative or underground press. And when that brand of ‘subversive’ writing finally broke into the open, it did so with daring and defiance. Like a swollen river raging to break free, like a boiling sea smashing against boulders. Like a mother in the throes of childbirth, writhing, screaming in pain in order to bring new life.
“That was how it was in the 1980s, during the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship, though waning would hardly be the applicable word at that time because it did not feel that way; because the dictator’s iron hand was still in a tight grip on the media and the entire nation. Looking back now, one could describe those years as the last years, though at that time no one thought the dark years marked with tyranny, repression and oppression, were nearing their end.
“This compilation is a testament to the courage and outrage of the writers who dared, defied and exposed, through the written word, the excesses of the 14-year-long dictatorial rule (1972-1986) of Ferdinand E. Marcos and his family, his government and trusted men, the military institution in particular, that carried out the unspeakable cruelty against a terrified people and those who dared to fight back.
“This book is for both journalists and nonjournalists, also for lovers and practitioners of law especially where freedom of the press is concerned. This book is for the present and future generations, for them to appreciate the power of the written word and the importance of keeping watch in the night with their lamps trimmed while the battle rages between darkness and light.
“The reader need not seethe or rage with the writers as if caught in a time warp; they can now read these pieces with equanimity, even enjoy some of them as they would a movie or whodunit. But not to forget that cinematic as some stories may appear, they were for real—the events, the characters, the storytellers, the heroes and the villains.
“Almost all the articles in this book exposed the tyrannical climate of martial rule that hovered on the benighted nation, the excesses and abuses that victimized countless individuals and communities, the lies and coercive bend that characterized those in power who ruled roughshod with impunity. But just as riveting as the bylined stories are the consequences—described after every article or in whole chapters—that befell the persons behind the bylines, the authors who bore the consequences of the words they wrote and who bravely faced their tormentors.
“Media shutdown, arrests, detention, forced resignations, interrogations, libel (‘scurrilous!’) cases, threats—and even death for some—were the lot of many writers and their publishers during the Martial Law years. But the stories in this book are those mostly written in the 1980s when emboldened journalists, mostly women, rose to wield and wave the pen against the dictatorship.” (To be continued)
The back cover blurb by Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, whose piece is included in the book: “To see a gathering of literature produced during martial law as no more than dormant literature for picking up, or not, is to miss the point to looking back. As we speak, a Strongman rises again. To look back is to move forward with fewer mistakes, and the literature has already been written to get us there.”
The book will be launched on March 23, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Quezon Avenue corner Edsa (between Centris Mall and NGCP-Napocor). Launch price is P800, regular price is P1,000.
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