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AMARC Asia-Pacific Demands Immediate Release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo and Frenchie Mae Cumpio of the Philippines

25 June 2020

KATHMANDU, Nepal–AMARC Asia-Pacific demands the immediate release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo, the Community Radio Coordinator of a farmers’ group (FARDEC) in Bantayan Island, Cebu, the Philippines. Elena, 58, was forcibly taken from her home in Barangay Kampingganon, Bantayan, Cebu in the evening of June 13. According to media reports, suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away. As of today, Elena remains missing.

Elena is the program coordinator for sustainable agriculture FARDEC, non-profit, non-government organization that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues. She is also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. According to media sources, Elena was red-tagged by state elements as being an “alleged New People’s Army.” In its statement of June 14, FARDEC has said “our stand for the rights of farmers has resulted in the targeting of FARDEC by protectors of vested interests.” A detail media report is available at https://kodao.org/iawrt-community-radio-coordinator-abduct…/.

The incident happened while the much-protested “Anti-Terrorism Bill” in the Philippines is in the process of becoming law. The bill, fast-tracked from May 29 and approved in Congress three sessions later, was condemned by all quarters of Philippine society—media, schools, lawyers, church, business, celebrities, etc. for the broad definition of terrorism that may be used against critics.

Speaking on the incident, Ramnath Bhat, President of AMARC Asia-Pacific has demanded the immediate release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo. He has also expressed grave concerns over the continuously deteriorating conditions of media freedom and freedom of expression in the Philippines. “Intimidation of human rights workers and media activists including community radio workers is deplorable and unacceptable, it must stop immediately. We call upon all concerned authorities of the Philippines including the judiciary to take necessary steps to protect human rights and media freedom and upon the wider media, activism and development community to highlight her illegal abduction. We express our solidarity and support to Elena’s family as well as with all community radio workers and human rights activists of the Philippines who are continuing the struggle”

On a similar case, AMARC Asia-Pacific has noted, with much distress the decision of the Tacloban Regional Trial Court to junk the omnibus motion to quash the search warrant used by the police and military to arrest broadcaster and journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and four other human rights defenders last February 7. The decision denies our colleague freedom and perpetuates the injustice she suffers. AMARC Asia-Pacific reiterates its protest against Cumpio’s arrest. We reckon that her imprisonment is unjust and she must be freed immediately!#

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AMARC is the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. It has more than 400 member community radio stations and advocate groups worldwide and enjoys an observer status with the United Nations.

Filipino community radio stations struggle to survive amid attacks and difficulties

By Mong Palatino

A book published in 2018 documented the challenges faced by community radio networks in the Philippines. This author interviewed one of the groups behind the book project about the significance of community radio in a country where most of the murdered journalists are broadcasters from the rural provinces.

Titled ‘Amplifying the People’s Voices: The Philippine Community Radio Experience and Challenges’, the book was published by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television and Kodao Productions. [Note: Kodao is a content partner of Global Voices.]

Jola Diones-Mamangun, executive director of Kodao, shared via email some of the highlights of the book and the current challenges of community radio broadcasting under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. First, she explained what community radio means:

Community radio is broadcasting or ‘narrowcasting’ by a community on a topic that is of importance to them through a (usually) low-power radio transmitter (broadcasting) or a public-address system (narrowcasting). It is a form of a town-hall meeting that uses the radio program format. Both the broadcaster/s and the interviewee/s are usually members of the community themselves. If the community succeeds in putting a community radio station, they broadcast a series of programs that is similar to how other radio stations operate (eg, Radyo Sagada). If not, they can set up a public address system and place speakers around the community and the program/s usually last for just hours (eg. Radyo San Roque).

Sagada is part of the Cordillera Region, the home of the Igorot indigenous peoples, in the northern part of the Philippines. San Roque is an urban poor community in Metro Manila, the country’s capital region.

She mentioned how community radio stations formed a network in the early 1990s

There have been earlier stand-alone community radio stations in the Philippines but it was only in the early 1990s that the late Louie Tabing started the Tambuli network of community radio stations. He is acknowledged in the global community radio broadcasting movement as an Asian pioneer.

‘Amplifying the People’s Voices: The Philippine Community Radio Experience and Challenges’. (Published by IAWRT)

She said Kodao’s work was inspired by the legacy of the Tambuli Network. Tambuli spearheaded the establishment of more than 20 community radio stations in remote villages across the Philippines, with assistance from various sectors such as the academe, church, international NGOs, and the communities themselves.

She then summarized the main challenges faced by community radio in the past two decades:

Sustainability is the main challenge. When funding for Tambuli dried up, most of the stations became moribund, shriveling the network and stopping the project on its tracks.

Second problem are the laws that appear to discourage the establishment of independent community radio stations. For example, while there are more than a hundred Radyo Natin stations all over the archipelago—low-power Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC)-owned stations—there are very few genuine community radio stations such as Radyo Sagada. It is unjust that large networks such as MBC are given hundreds of frequencies on both AM and FM bands that it is no longer possible, for example to put a radio station in the Metro Manila area, or Cebu, Iloilo, Davao and others. What if the Dumagats of Antipolo want to have a radio station of their own? [Dumagats are indigenous peoples from Rizal province. Antipolo is part of Rizal, located east of Metro Manila].

Third, because they are non-profit, community-owned and operated, and assisted by non-government organizations, genuine community radio stations are often victims of attacks and harassments, leading to their closure or abortion of their establishment. Radyo Cagayano was burned down and its staff attacked in Baggao, Cagayan in 2006; Radyo Sugbuanon’s full operation was aborted because of threats by the police and politicians; Radyo Lumad was closed last January 2019 because of threats and harassments. NGOs that help put them up are red-tagged and some have even been killed or imprisoned.

Radyo Cagayano, Radyo Lumad, and Radyo Sugbuanon are located in communities where the residents have been either resisting the entry and expansion of mining interests or opposing the approval of large-scale projects that could destroy their homes and livelihoods. These radio stations have consistently worked with communities threatened with displacement by broadcasting the issue and providing a platform for local residents to articulate their demands. It is this mission of ‘amplifying the people’s voices’ that led to vicious attacks targeting those who are speaking truth to power.

She emphasized that the ‘people’s right to communication’ should be part of the broader struggle for real development and inclusive democracy in the Philippines:

These are no small challenges that could be addressed by simple problem-solving. There must a systemic social change if community radio is to finally succeed in the Philippines. It must be pursued as part of the people’s right to communication. If the marginalized are underserved by the mass media establishment, they must be allowed to be their own voice (as opposed to claims that they are voiceless and that the networkers are giving them one.

She accused the Duterte government, which came to power in 2016, of enabling more attacks against the independent press including community radio:

It is under the Duterte regime that Radyo Sugbuanon and Radyo Lumad have been threatened, leading to the abortion of the former’s full establishment and the closure of the latter.

She said Kodao plans to give copies of the book to mass communication schools throughout the country to serve as a resource. She added that the book can be part of a campaign to push for an enabling law promoting community radio broadcasting in the Philippines.

(This article was first published by Global Voices, an international and multilingual community of bloggers, journalists, translators, academics, and human rights activists. It is republished by Kodao as part of a content sharing agreement.)

Int’l group launches book on Philippine community broadcasting

ENTEBBE, Uganda–The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) launched a book on community radio broadcasting in the Philippines, narrating its nearly three-decade history and laying down the challenges it faces in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world.

Entitled Amplifying the People’s Voices: The Philippine Community Radio Experience and Challenges, the 72-page book was launched by its President Violet Gonda and Philippine Chapter head Jola Diones-Mamangun in Kampala, Uganda during the group’s regional conference.

The book chronologically narrates how community radio broadcasting in the Philippines started in the 1990s as well as the problems it faces to this day.

Produced for IAWRT by its Philippine chapter, the book also recounts how current broadcasting laws in the country make it difficult for low-power radio stations to acquire franchises and licenses from government institutions.

Gonda said radio is one of the oldest and important forms of media in communications.

“A number of our members represent the various tiers of radio – public, private and community. The Philippine chapter has been pioneering a project, the Mobile Disaster Radio, which is the need of the hour – with the problems of climate change, regular cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis which have become a part of our life,” Gonda said.

“This project targets vulnerable communities to prepare them better for the unseen disasters, from risk to preparednes. It began in 2014, and  is giving voice to the voiceless and empowering women to be prepared and reduce loss to lives and properties,” she added.

Through IAWRT funding, the chapter has managed to set up transmitters in the most disaster prone communities and provided computers, cables, mobile phone units for the reporters and training and mentoring exercises to empower the local communities in various provinces in the Visayas region.

The book recalls how one of the first community radio stations, Radyo Cagayano, was attacked and burned by unknown persons, suspected to be members of the Philippine Army, in 2006, setting back the planned establishment of more stations by several years.

The Philippines is deemed by Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists and other global media groups as among the most dangerous countries for journalists, with 184 media workers killed since the supposed return of democracy in the country in 1986.

The majority of media workers killed are provincial broadcasters, as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in several of its reports.

However, Diones-Mamangun, also IAWRT International treasurer and Kodao Productions executive director, said the book is less about the campaign’s problems but more about its successes despite overwhelming odds.

“We want this book’s readers to realize that whatever successes the community broadcasting movement in the Philippines has achieved are due to the communities’ determination to tell their own stories through radio,” Diones-Mamangun said.

“The lesson here is that community radio broadcasting will never happen without the communities themselves.”

Gonda added that IAWRT is happy to have published a community radio handbook to share the group’s journey and for its to learn from experiences.

“There could be no better place than Uganda to release this publication as there is a strong presence of community radio here,” Gonda said.

Aside from Diones-Mamangun, the Philippine delegation to the Uganda conference include IAWRT Philippine chapter vice president Prof. Lynda Garcia and members Walkie Mirana and Lady Ann Salem. #

Philippine women broadcasters elect new set of officers, to host int’l confab in November

An association of women broadcasters in the Philippines elected a new set of officers ahead of its hosting of an international biennial conference in the country this November.

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)—Philippine Chapter held a meeting Saturday in Quezon City and elected its officers as it prepares for one of the most significant gathering of women broadcasters in the world this year.

Jola Diones Mamangun of Kodao Productions was re-elected as chapter president, along with Miriam College’s Lynda Garcia as vice president, DWNE’s Sonia Capio as secretary, and Bulatlat’s Ronalyn Olea as Treasurer.

People’s Alternative Media Network filmmaker Ilang-Ilang Quijano, Farmers’ Development Center radio broadcaster Marvie Matura and Kodao’s Yanni Roxas were elected as board members.

Mamangun said the officers and the chapter will focus on organizing the 37th IAWRT Biennial Conference as well as continue its aggressive recruitment of new members, especially in Mindanao.

The chapter shall also continue to actively participate in the programs and projects of IAWRT International.

IAWRT is a global organization of women in electronic and allied media that aims to ensure women’s views and values in mass media. It enjoys a consultative status with the United National Economic and Social Council.

In the Philippines, IAWRT is also in the midst of establishing the country’s first-ever women-led disaster risk reduction community radio station in Cebu Province in partnership with Kodao Productions and the Farmers’ Development Center in Central Visayas.

In conjunction with one of IAWRT-International’s core programs of providing trainings and workshops, the Philippine chapter also organizers such activities for local women broadcasters. # (Edna Cahilog-Villanueva / Photos by Jomaline Diones Mamangun)

IAWRT Philippines officers 2017-2019. (From left) Board members Marvie Matura, Yanni Roxas, Ilang-Ilang Quijano; treasurer Ronalyn Olea; secretary Sonia M. Capio; vice president Lynda Garcia; and president Jola Diones-Mamangun.