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‘Press Freedom Under Siege’ (2)

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”), of which I am the editor and among the authors included:

“Read about the murder by the military of Kalinga chief Macli-ing Dulag, the plight of the Atas of Mindanao, the Las Navas massacre, the killing of a country doctor. Read the pieces that exposed and challenged the conjugal dictatorship, its excesses and the ways and means it employed to cow, silence, threaten, terrorize and eliminate those who did not pay allegiance to the so-called New Society. Learn about the aftermath of the writers’ boldness, how the dictatorship and its minions tried to intimidate them—through arrest and detention, threats and surveillance, interrogations, forced resignations, multimillion libel suits, etc.—to hush them up and make them pay for their daring.

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“Read the pieces by Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, Sheila S. Coronel, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Rene O. Villanueva, Arlene Babst, Mauro Avena, Chelo Banal, Domini Torrevillas, Lorna Kalaw Tirol, Ninez Cacho Olivares, Mila Astorga Garcia, Leonor Aureus Briscoe, Sylvia Mayuga, Recah Trinidad, Roberto Z. Coloma, Melinda Q. de Jesus, Alex R. Magno, Alex Dacanay, et al., that appeared in various publications. Some articles that were banned and never saw print, are included in this volume.

“Still included in this volume are the non-journalistic pieces, some of the legal kind that gave context to the issue of press freedom and censorship at that time. Some of the authors risked censure and being censored but they exercised brinkmanship to convey their thoughts to challenge the despotic dispensation.

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“We cannot let go of the introductory and editorial pieces in ‘The Philippine Press Under Siege’ volumes 1 and 2, where almost all the articles in this present volume were used. These introductions were written mostly by Leonor Aureus Briscoe who edited the two volumes in 1984 and 1985, aided by the Women Writers in Media Now (WOMEN).

“This new, single and thicker volume is the resurrected, reformatted version of those two books published by the Committee to Protect Writers composed mostly of WOMEN members, and the National Press Club of the Philippines under then club president Antonio Ma. Nieva who was thrown in jail for ‘inciting to rebellion.’

“Why ‘resurrected?’ Because there is a need to bring back to life, if not keep alive, historical facts that have to do with the freedoms we presently enjoy. Because there is now a creeping culture of forgetfulness and silence even among victims who had gone through those dark times (too traumatic to recall or discuss?—but yes, indeed). And, on the part of the victimizers, to revise history.

“Filipino journalists continue to be killed—since the dictatorship ended in 1986, the count is now nearing 200—while their killers walk free and with impunity. One cannot ignore the hovering new threats to press freedom, where these are coming from and the reasons why.

“For history’s sake, the urgent call now is to instill interest in the past among the young. They who do not know much—or were not made to know?—about the sufferings of their elders or had not read about those dark, painful years in the course of their studies because…

“But not to assign blame at this point, only to resolve to make sure that history does not repeat itself, that history does not get re-written or revised. That NEVER AGAIN will tyranny subdue this nation, that NEVER AGAIN will voices be silenced, that NEVER AGAIN will the hand that writes be stilled.”

From the foreword by Sheila S. Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, whose pieces are included in the book: “We witnessed The Fall and survived that Dark Age. As we look back to that dark era now, we can say that we stared at the dark heart of power and tried our best to shine a light, no matter how faint or how fleeting. This book reminds us of those flashes of light.”

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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). Launch price is P800, regular price is P1,000.

Send feedback to cerespd@gmail.com.

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