About 50 members of the media clad in black, and representatives from various sectors gathered in front of the Fountain of Justice at Araneta Street in Bacolod City last night to stand up for press freedom, amid a move by government to shutdown Rappler, a news website.
They lit candles and held a noise barrage after a battery of speakers slammed what they called the administration'sattackson press freedom and freedom of speechat a protest dubbed “Black Friday for Press Freedom”.
T hey also brought streamers that read “All for 1 and 1 for all,” “No to media crackdown,” “Don't gag the press,” “Stand with Rappler,” “We will not be silenced” and “No to dictatorship.”
The government withdrew the corporate registration of the Rappler website this week and has summoned its chief executive to answer a "cyber-libel" complaint in what media watchdogs describe as payback for critical coverage of Duterte's deadly war on drugs.
The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the news organization violated a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of local media when its parent company issued Philippine depositary receipts for Rappler shares that were sold to a foreign fund.
Rappler maintains the investment did not constitute equity nor give the investors veto on editorial matters and has vowed to fight Monday's ruling, which takes effect after 15 days.
The Bacolod protest organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter was also joined by members of the Negros Press Club headed by Boy Duran.
MarchelEspina, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chairman, saidthe ongoing attacks on media are diverting the public from the real issues, like charter change and tax reform.
She calledon colleagues in the media to remain steadfast in these trying times, and to stand together to defend press freedom.
“After all, it is our duty to remain as watchdogs, and not as lapdogs…We will not be intimidated. We will not be silenced,” she said.
NonoyEspina, NUJP national director, said the Black Friday protest in Bacolod is to let the voices of the media be heard in protesting the shutting down of Rappler, in defending press freedom, and in calling for the public to join the media in protecting one's rights.
Fr. Cris Gonzales, director of the Social Action Center of Diocese of Bacolod,said that telling the bad side of a person is not wrong since it is the truth, however, the current administration hates those who are telling him the truth.
Fr. Felix Pasquin said he is one with the media in defending press freedom.
IndayEspina-Varona, convenor of the Let's Organize for Democracy and Integrity, said the government is trying to silence the media as they have a plan to change the Constitution to deprive the people of basic human rights.
Christian Tuayon, chairman of BagongAlyansangMakabayan-Negros said the cracking down of the media only shows the “cry-baby” side of members of the Duterteadministration to criticisms hurled against them.
About 200 journalists and activists staged a similar protest in Metro Manila*SGG/AFP
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