“Tagapagbalita, hindi Terorista,” this was the reiterated call in the online campaign for Frenchie Mae Cumpio spearheaded by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in time for the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).

Various journalists, media practitioners, and supporters took the social media platform to express solidarity and reiterate the call for Cumpio’s immediate release.

Cumpio is the executive director of Eastern Vista and a radio anchor for a local news program in Tacloban. Given the practices law enforcement among progressives, she was arrested due to a string of raid operations and was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives on February 7, 2020.

What marks the WPFD ’21 celeb?

NUJP noted the dangers of red-tagging especially at the helm of Anti-Terrorism Law.

Out of the fifty-two cases of intimidation, the journalists union have recorded 30 red-tagging incidents against individual journalists since June 2016 to present.

“We mark World Press Freedom Day with recent reminders of the risks that journalists in the Philippines, especially those among the alternative and regional media face,” wrote NUJP in a statement.

Like the rest of the media community, WPFD is deemed as a reminder amid the shrinking space of democracy given the rampant attacks against press freedom. To these critical Filipino journalists, the state orchestrated attacks not only compromise the freedom of the press but also the people’s basic right to information especially at the height of the global pandemic.

“We mark World Press Freedom Day with questions still hanging over the Anti-Terrorism Act that we view as a threat to many civil liberties, including the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press,” NUJP continued.

The union is also among the petitioners who questioned the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Law prior to the ongoing Supreme Court proceedings. Seventeen media outlets and organizations and 79 individual journalists have also signed a joint statement opposing the controversial law.

Northern Dispatch editor in chief Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol, who had been red-tagged and charged with cyberlibel, joins NUJP-led campaign to lambast ATL and call for the release of Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

Further, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism stood firm to “join the voices of various sectors opposing provisions of the law that trample upon fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of the press” given the government’s anti-insurgency campaign causing a rise in killings of activists.

“Section 9 of the ATA proscribes speech, proclamations, writings, emblems, and banners that fall under the new crime of “inciting to terrorism,” imposing a penalty of 12 years in prison,

“As the law fails to provide a clear definition of terrorism and is vague about what constitutes acts of terrorism, Section 9 could make media practitioners vulnerable to wrongful charges and arrests, producing a chilling effect on all media practice.” PCIJ affirmed.

The word “chilling effect” has once brought to limelight from assaults to media, especially with the attacks to several media outfits like Rappler as well as the closure of ABS-CBN.

The media giant ABS-CBN marks its one year off-air after a cease and desist order released by National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on May 5, 2020, a day after the expiration of its congressional franchise.

Free Romina Astudillo

Like Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Romina Astudillo was also a journalist and a labor organizer who is among the arrested individuals during the human rights day crackdown last December 10.

Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem who was also among the #HRD7 shared her experience she said to be indifferent to the cases against Astudillo, Cumpio, and the rest of political prisoners amid the law enforcement operation with their usual planting of evidence scheme.

Salem had been freed on March 5 upon the dismissal of the Mandaluyong court to such allegations.

“Maraming kasinungalingan sa sinabi ng mga pulis at mga informant nito para makakuha ng search warrant at isa sa pinakamalaking butas doon ay sinasabing nakilala kami noong Mayo bagaman Oktubre lamang kami nandoon (sa aming tinutuluyan), at mula Mayo buwan-buwan ay nagdedeliver ng mga baril papunta kina Shami at sa iba pa,” Salem shared.

Salem noted that Astudillo was not even present to the location on the month of May as narrated by the police and their informants.

Astudillo and the rest of the remaining individuals of #HRD7 have been facing political detention for more than four months.

“Makatwiran ang pagpapalaya kina Shami hindi lang dahil sa ang kaso na isinampa sa amin ay napatunayan nang kasinungalingan lamang, dahil na nga sa pagkakabasura ng kaso sa amin ni Rodrigo Esparago. Pero makatwiran din ang pagpapalaya kay Shami dahil wala naman dapat makulong sa bansang ito na sinasabi umanong may demokrasya dahil sa kanyang paniniwala, sa kanyang asosasyon, propesyon, o mga legal at lehitimong gawain o kahingian,”

College Editors Guild of the Philippines Metro Manila in partnership with ISKOLAR led the online protest action for Romina Astudillo and call for her immediate release, along with the remaining political detainees of #HRD7, as well as all political detainees.

The said event was included in the three-day media forum series spearheaded by Manila Today, Tudla Productions, CEGP-Metro Manila, and ISKOLAR dubbed “Freedom requires a Free Press”.

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