The Oct. 3 killing in Metro Manila of a radio broadcaster, who was a known critic of the previous and current administrations and described as “one of the country’s fiercest truth-tellers,” is alarming and it solidifies the truth that despite having one of most liberal environments for journalism, the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists.
The brazen killing of Percival Mabasa a.k.a. Percy Lapid sends chills to the spine, even among the Fourth Estate in Baguio City and the rest of the country,with some of its members no longer stranger to threats and intimidation while performing their duty as purveyors of truth.
We note this latest attack on a journalist, which police authorities presume to be work-related, has earned the attention of foreign embassies, as it took a rare collective stand against media killings in the Philippines.
In a joint statement, the Canadian and Dutch embassies, co-chairs of the Global Media Freedom Coalition, said “Journalist killings strike at the very core of media freedom and can create a chilling effect that curtails the ability of journalists to report news freely and safely.”
This was followed by responses from the German, British, Denmark, France, and United States embassies, as well as the European Union delegation to the Philippines, that called those responsible for the crime must be brought to justice.
At least 187 journalists in the country have been killed in the past 35 years, including 32 who were brutally murdered in the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 and the recent two under the current administration, according to international watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
The numbers should already stop there.
Killing the messengers, when we do not want the message being delivered, is deplorable and should not become a normal occurrence or a usual entry in the police blotter that will soon be forgotten whether solved or unsolved.
Something must be done to stop the culture of violence in this country, especially the ones that use bullets to silence journalists and in settling conflicts in general.
We would like to find assurance in the report that Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has expressed concern about the killing and tasked concerned officials to look over the conduct of investigation, but we need to see a clear and concrete course of action that would make journalists in the country feel protected and free in doing their job as messengers of information guaranteed under the Constitution.
Unless it thinks otherwise, this administration should make the promotion of press freedom and right to expression a priority, to prove wrong the perception that the next six years would be a repeat of the dark years of the martial law when journalists critical of the government would disappear, if not reportedly tortured or killed.
It could start by reviewing how it implements the anti-insurgency efforts initiated in the previous administration that seemingly has a penchant for red-tagging anyone, including media practitioners, criticizing or questioning government actions without due process.
We suggest for the government to restore the culture of taking criticisms constructively by reviving a healthy atmosphere between the government and the public bridged by responsible journalism.
Despite the odds, the challenges posed by emerging mediums in providing communication and delivering reports that matter, in spite of the rise of fake news and other forms of misinformation and disinformation, and the constant threats to life and the usual dangers on field, journalists – the press and the media – are here to stay.
We are confident or remain hopeful that being informed, having reliable reports, and the continuous need for the truth are what the public still needs for this country to progress, because it is only through this “commodity” that responsible journalism can continue to hold the line.
In shooting the 187 Filipino journalists, their pertrators validated their message. The messengers may have been silenced, but the truth, as we all are aware, always prevails.