De Lima underscores media’s role as soldiers of democracy, urges public to defend free press


Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged journalists and media practitioners to step up on their role in promoting democracy by unfailingly using their power to expose the truth, including those that concern the abuses and corruption in government, amid attempts by the present administration to attack the free press.

In her message during the webinar dubbed as “From Repression to Resistance: A Webinar on Combatting the Lawfare Against Press Freedom” last Nov. 21, De Lima maintained that free press and democracy should always co-exist.

“It is high time then that you, journalists, see yourselves for who you really are: soldiers – nay, heroes and frontliners – of democracy.  Your role is not to parrot propaganda but to ensure that information that matters reach our people,” she said.

“Your duty is to present the unvarnished truth to our people in a way that they understand what it is that they need to know and what it is that they can do, as voters, as citizens, as engaged partners in nation-building,” she added.

The webinar, organized by the Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima (Free Leila Committee), in cooperation with the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Asian Center for Journalism, and Cebu for Human Rights, discussed the alarming phenomenon of lawfare, media crackdown, and the impunity for crimes and abuses against journalists.

Speakers in the forum include Prof. Walden Bello, a foremost sociologist and a member of the Free Leila Committee, Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa, and Froilan Gallardo, a veteran photographer and journalist based in Cagayan de Oro City. 

De Lima, a known human rights and social justice champion here and abroad, lamented that a large swath of Philippine media has turned into self-censorship in a time when abuses, corruption, mismanagement and unchecked powers are rampant in the government.

To highlight Duterte’s effort to bully and threaten the press who would dare speak against him, De Lima cited how his allies in Congress denied ABS-CBN their franchise renewal and how Ressa faced a slew of harassment cases under the current regime.

Instead of practicing self-censorship, De Lima urged that the media should focus on highlighting news that would count come election day in 2022 to ensure that people choose the rightful leaders.

“Any run-of-the-mill blogger can report on whatever inanities politicians can come up with and sell them as sensational pieces to our people under the guise of news,” she said.

“But they are actually garbage – noise that preoccupies the minds of our people that only takes away their attention from things that matter, such as policies that further our national interests and a functioning system that guarantees government accountability,” she added.

In line with this, De Lima also reminded the public of the need to protect journalists from abuses at all costs, pointing out that “the killings were not confined to the supposed war on drugs. It tragically extended to the killing of journalists”. .

Last November 10, De Lima recalled that radio commentator and columnist Virgilio Maganes was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen on motorcycle in Pangasinan, making him the 18th journalist killed under the Duterte administration. He is the third journalist killed this year.

The lady Senator stressed that “such showcase of impunity should not operate to silence us. Now, more than ever, we need to be more dutiful and tenacious soldiers of democracy.”  (30)

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
Rm. 502 & 16 (New Wing 5/F) GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Diokno Blvd., Pasay City

Trunk Lines:
(632) 552-6601 to 70 local no. 5750

Direct Lines:
807-8489 / (Rm. 16) 807-8580 /local 8619

© 2019 Office of Sen. Leila de Lima. All rights reserved.