Several media groups participated in the launch of “Masked Media” led by National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, happening at the same time with the martial law protest at UP Diliman on September 21.

“Pinili natin ang araw na ito kahit alam natin na marami ang kailangang i-cover, pinili natin ang lugar na ito hindi dahil ito lang ang available na lugar,“ NUJP secretary general Raymund Villanueva explained.

[We chose this day despite the many stories we need to cover today, we chose this place not only because this is the only one available.]

Almost five decades, or 48 years to be exact, since the declaration of Martial law where thousands of activists and journalists have been imprisoned, disappeared or killed. Thus, a shrine dedicated to the fallen victims was established to recognize their deeds and contribution to the ouster of the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

“Hindi tayo naririto upang alalahanin lamang sila. Nandito tayo dahil mayroong pagkakapareho ang kanilang panahon sa ating panahon.” Villanueva added.

[We are not here to just remember them. We are here because today is similar to their time.]

Villanueva and other journalists pointed out the similarity of Marcos dictatorship and the current administration with regard to the rampant human rights violation, including the assault on press freedom.

According to a report from NUJP and Center for Media Freedom Responsibility (CMFR), the attacks and threats against press community have skyrocketed with 171 reported incidents since June 30, 2016 to April 30, 2020.

In fact, community media anchor Jobert “Polpog” Bercasio was slain on September 14 in Sorsogon City, the 17th journalist killed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

“Ang mga mamamahayag noon na naglalantad ng human rights violations tulad ng mga massacres ni Marcos ay binabansagang subversives. Bukod sa pagbabansag na subversives at flirting with communists, sinabi rin niya na ginagawa lang yan ng media para i-undermine ang gobyerno. Naririnig din natin iyan sa ngayon,” stressed Bulatlat Managing Editor Ronalyn Olea.

[Journalists then who exposed human rights violations like massacres under Marcos were branded as subversives. Aside from the subversive and flirting with communists tag, he said that media only report on those issues to undermine government. We hear such things today.]

Olea also reasoned that the incident of media shutdown with only the crony press at work in times of the Martial law is indifferent from the suppression of the press during the administration of President Duterte.

“Sa panahon ni Duterte ay ipinasara muli ang ABS CBN, kinasuhan ng patong-patong na kaso ang Rappler, inatake ang websites ng alternative media outfits, ipinakulong ang mga mamamahayag na naglalantad ng katotohanan tulad ni Frenchie Mae Cumpio,” Olea cited.

[In the time of Duterte, ABS-CBN was again closed down, Rappler was charged with several cases, website of alternative media outfits were attacked, journalists exposing the truth were jailed.]

Cumpio is a community journalist whose beats are focused primarily on the situation of farmers and on human rights violations in Eastern Visayas region. Her media outfit’s office was raided in February, and she was arrested and detained on the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, that various groups assailed as “planted evidence.”

“Ganito katindi ang fabricated charges sa mga mamahayag. Ito ay repleksyon ng matinding panunupil at lantaran nating sinasabi na sa ilalim ni Duterte ay may panibagong tiranya, isang panibagong diktadura. Kahit walang deklaradong batas militar ay ipinasa ang anti-terror law na ginagawang krimen ang paglalahad ng katotohanan, maging ang gawain natin sa media na mag-interview ng iba’t ibang grupo at sektor ng lipunan,” Olea added.

[This is how severe these fabricated cases against journalists were. These are reflections of grave repression and we openly say that under Duterte, there is new tyranny, new dictatorship. Even if there was no declared martial law, the terror law was passed and telling truth is being criminalized, even our work to interview various groups and sectors in society.]

On the other hand, Villanueva and Olea reminded their fellow journalists on the historical and vital role of the media in the likes of freedom of expression heroes Liliosa Hilao, Emmanuel Lacaba, and Lorena Barros, among the 16 writers and journalists killed during the Marcos dictatorship.

“Ang ating tungkulin ay patuloy na maglantad ng katotohanan. Tawagin man nila tayong terorista, komunista, o kung ano pang mga label ang gusto nilang ibansag sa atin. Kailangan nating tumindig kasama ng mamamayan para ipaglaban ang katotohanan,” Olea affirmed

[Our work is to continue to expose the truth. Even if they call us terrorists for doing so, or whatever they want to label us. we need to stand with the people to fight for the truth.]

Olea further mentioned that journalists must remain vigilant and never be deceived with the “rhetoric” of the current administration alongside its cronies and troll armies.

Meanwhile, Villanueva firmly interjected “Ang kasaysayan ay nagpapatuloy at pinatutunayan ng ating hanay, kapag mayroong naniniiil, ang mamamahayag ng Pilipino ay lumalaban.”

[History continues and our ranks prove that as long as there is an oppressor, Filipino journalists will fight.]

“Sa pinakamadidilim na panahon ng ating kasaysayan, isa ang mga mamamahayag na naninidigan hindi lamang para sa kalayaaan sa pamamahayag kundi sa lahat ng karapatang pantao. Bahagi ang karapatang pantao sa ating pakikibaka upang ipaglaban ang demokrasya at panlipunang katarungan.” Villanueva added.

[In the darkest days of history, journalists are among those who stood not only for freedom of expression but on all our human rights. Our human rights is part of the struggle for human rights and social justice.]

At the end of the program, journalists lit candles and offered flowers to the tomb of the names of media veterans who fought during the martial law period.

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