This was written in response to a Facebook post by Mr. Jonathan P. Nacua, a principal in the Division of City Schools – Manila. Mr. Nacua has a background in handling school newspapers and campus journalism contests. In his post, he claimed that “PRESS FREEDOM is not a HUMAN RIGHT.” I was about to drop it, but my disappointment with the message and the person who expressed it got the best of me. If someone can claim that that “press freedom is not a human right,” then I, as a practitioner of campus journalism, can use the same to counter it, for the sake of practitioners of alternative media and the press. It is such a shame that this statement would come from a man who claims to be an ally of at least one alternative media, the school press.
It is such a shame that this statement would come from a man who claims to be an ally of at least one alternative media, the school press.—Micah Corin A. Salonoy
First of all, the freedom of the press is technically a right of the people, as per the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The section protecting the freedom of the press is found in the article that protects the rights of the people. Article III, Bill of Rights. Section 4 states:
“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of the speech, of expression, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress and grievances.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified on December 10, 1948, also clearly states that the freedom of the press and the right to expression are inalienable human rights. Article 19 states that people have the right to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. The Philippines is one of the countries that voted in favor of this UN declaration.
It would take a damning amount of “mental gymnastics” to ignore or avoid the Philippine Constitution and ratified declarations of the UN.
This message about the freedom of the press not being a human right can negatively affect practitioners of campus journalism and alternative media. Instead of commemorating Republic Act 7079, also known as the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, the toxicity of contest journalism continues to lay waste on the country as long as educators focus on contest culture and not on the long-term gains of the responsible teaching and practice of campus press freedom and press freedom in general.
“Contest journalism” has created a despicable circuit of students and educators who ‘practice journalism’ without objectivity and a more profound sense of responsibility to the nation and the current demands of societal relations and issues.
To add insult to injury, the vile tokenism in academic institutions, where awarded students are prioritized and appreciated more than other hardworking staff of campus publications, continues to propagate the idea that the peak of campus journalism is winning awards. It is shameful for any educator to banner awards and the culture itself while glossing over the deeper meaning of campus journalism.
[T]he vile tokenism in academic institutions, where awarded students are prioritized and appreciated more than other hardworking staff of campus publications, continues to propagate the idea that the peak of campus journalism is winning awards.—Micah Corin A. Salonoy
Section 2 of RA 7079 highlighted that such contests, conferences, or even seminars are meant to promote the development and growth of campus journalism. The policy is declared to strengthen ethical values, encourage critical and creative thinking, and develop moral character and personal discipline of the Filipino youth, promoting responsible and free journalism.
Any educator or campus journalist who claims that press freedom is not even a human right is directly negating the core of the practice. If it is not a human right, then what is it for? Is press freedom meant to support the powers that be? Was it meant to support fascists and state abuses? What is it for, now?
In light of this message, we must look at personages like Maria Ressa, who recently got the support of the European Union. She continues to campaign for charges to be dropped against here. There is also Julian Assange, who recently got offered a pardon from the Trump administration.
It is a sad day indeed when the national campus journalism circuit becomes muddled with people who are immersed, not in the practice of campus journalism itself, but pure and shameless self-interest. We must always avoid taking advantage of these press conferences, whether we be students or educators. It is unethical, and it goes against the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish as members of the alternative press.
I have nothing but pity for campus journalists who are persuaded to attend questionable and overpriced seminars spearheaded by equally questionable ‘educators.’ We are in the era where divisions and regions have become so desperate to win journalism contests. It is a shame that winning contests has become a priority over promoting the ethics of campus journalism and press freedom in general. It is doubly shameful that educators and self-proclaimed supporters of the craft now use the fissures and weaknesses of the system to take advantage of others.
Winning contests does have its perks, but let us not hide the fact that not everyone who writes and wins can or are already great journalists.—Micah Corin A. Salonoy
It does not matter who wins or goes to school press conferences. Winning contests does have its perks, but let us not hide the fact that not everyone who writes and wins can or are already great journalists. I do not claim to be one, either. Becoming a journalist is more than campus journalism or, worse, contest journalism. May you, young journalists, promise that in times of oppression, your pen and voice will rise to the challenge of helping save this nation rather than winning contests and school-based recognition.
I wish this coming decade will become an “Age of Enlightenment” of sorts for campus journalism in the Philippines. I also wish that there will come a time that the National School Press Conference and other press conferences and conventions would become so much more than just contests. The current culture that we have all fostered has created a generation of wrathful and award-hungry campus journalists and educators who want nothing more than to outdo each other with medals and trophies. But when do we stop going at each other’s throats and unify critically to protect press freedom and all the other rights of our fellow Filipinos? When?
Happy Teachers’ Day to other educators who believe that press freedom is a right. Mabuhay po kayo! And to the educators who believe otherwise, history will be the witness to your natural decay and demise.
Elemia, Camille. “EU Parliament To Philippines: Drop Charges Vs Maria Ressa”. Rappler, 2020, https://rappler.com/nation/european-union-resolution-urging-philippine-government-drop-charges-vs-maria-ressa. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.
Elsom, Jack, and Geoff Earle. “Donald Trump Offered Julian Assange A ‘Win-Win’ Deal, Court Hears”. Mail Online, 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8747593/Donald-Trump-offered-Julian-Assange-win-win-deal-avoid-extradition-court-hears.html. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.
“R.A. 7079”. Lawphil.Net, 1991, https://lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra1991/ra_7079_1991.html. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.
“The Constitution Of The Republic Of The Philippines | GOVPH”. Official Gazette Of The Republic Of The Philippines, 1987, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/constitutions/1987-constitution/#article-iii. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.
“Universal Declaration Of Human Rights”. Ohchr.Org, 1948, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.