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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.)

Freedom-loving Filipinos defy Duterte — LODI

We are free because we choose to be free.

The results of the recent SWS survey are a testimony to Filipinos’ love for freedom and their defiance of the regime’s attempts to impose full-scale tyranny.

The oft-peddled claim of massive support for the President’s most oppressive policies crumbles amid the clear findings of the SWS survey: Those who report or express views critical of Duterte face safety issues. Yet those who believe they face clear danger refuse to crumble.

Filipinos will not surrender to any tyrant the freedom to think and express these thoughts, and to act accordingly.

We continue to defy the regime’s tyrannical obsession to silence or crush Filipinos’ free expression and press freedom: The harassment cases against Rappler; the DDOS attacks on alternative news websites; the threat to deny ABS-CBN a franchise renewal; the mobilization of hateful and disinformation-spreading troll armies; the conspiracy theories from Red October to the matrix; the Red-tagging and open threats against independent-minded and critical journalists, artists, and cultural workers; the filing of sedition, libel and other charges meant to intimidate or suppress freedom of expression and public participation; and the unremitting killings of journalists.

We journalists, artists and citizens alike must continue to ask questions and to express our democratic demand for accountability. The president has skirted many important questions from his health to the full details of his agreements with China and the likes of the Marcoses. He has refused to enact a Freedom of Information Law. He has refused to disclose the illegal acts of cabinet members, and top civilian and military officials he fired purportedly for corruption. He and his minions deny the public full disclosure on their designs for charter change.

We reiterate: Filipinos continue to exercise their rights by asking questions, expressing themselves and taking direct action. Because that’s what a freedom-loving people do in the face of a rising tyrant allergic of transparency and the breakdown of institutions supposedly holding him accountable.

There’s a saying that’s truly relevant today and applicable to Duterte: Duterte can fool all the people some of the time, and some people all of the time. But he cannot fool all the people all the time. #

No to legal attacks on freedom of expression and public participation

CAP condemns perjury, sedition charges vs. colleagues

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) condemns the successive filing of legal charges against human rights advocates and opposition members, which includes in their respondents members of the artist community.

This week alone has seen the filing of two complaints, which threaten not only the respondents but the very essence of freedom of expression and public participation itself.

First, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. filed perjury charges against human rights groups who asked for a protection order against government harassment. These are KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Gabriela, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which earlier petitioned for a writ of amparo and habeas data following the killings, vilification, and harassment against their members. Second is the “inciting to sedition” charge initiated by the PNP and the DOJ against a diverse line-up of 36 opposition figures starting with the Vice-President, on the pretext of being responsible for the spread of the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.

Included in the former is Kiri Dalena, a filmmaker, visual artist, and human rights advocate whose work has bravely reflected on the state’s perpetuation of human rights violations. Included in the latter is Joel Saracho, a veteran actor, writer and convener of the media and arts alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI).

We are outraged over how artists are facing these absurd charges of perjury and inciting to sedition. We view such legal attacks as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), which are lawsuits filed in retaliation for speaking out on a public issue and intending to burden, censor, intimidate, and silence critics into abandoning their criticism or opposition. While the Palace denies any hand in these charges, it can not deny that these incidents are rising as more people are expected to take to the streets in the United People’s SONA on July 22.

We condemn these assaults on our colleagues in the art and culture sector, who have tirelessly dedicated their craft, consciousness, and practice towards being artists for democracy, nationalism, and justice. We denounce the continuing red-tagging of our colleagues, our organizations, our films and the institutions that screen these.

We condemn how citizens at the forefront of protecting human rights are viciously attacked and targeted. These include human rights defenders Christina Palabay and Edith Burgos, wife of late press freedom icon Jose Burgos and mother of desaparecido Jonas Burgos, whose lifelong struggle for justice has been referenced across artworks to films.

We must not let such legal harassment pass. Already, artists and cultural workers are among 509 political prisoners in the Philippines today. These include Alvin Fortaliza, arrested on March 4, 2019 in Guindulman, Bohol and falsely charged with two counts of murder. Fortaliza is the Artistic Director of the Bol-anong Artista nga may Diwang Dagohoy (Bansiwag Bohol) Bohol Cultural Network which stages theater performances and conducts theater workshops for youth groups and was a volunteer provincial coordinator for Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Partylist in Bohol.

Artists, cultural, knowledge and media workers will fight back: with our voices, our art, and our presence in the parliament of the streets on July 22 at the United People’s SONA.

LODI statement on the PNP-DOJ sedition charges

Media and arts alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) views the sedition charges being instigated by the PNP and DOJ against opposition and Church figures, lawyers and artists as harassment and a cheap attempt to clamp down on dissent.

It seems this is less about the “Bikoy videos”, but more a continuation of the now-discredited “matrix” and Red October yarns. They want a new “chismis” to drive a wedge in the broad opposition ahead of the United People’s SONA.

The list of accused appear to be clumsily and haphazardly drawn up, without regard to evidence to back up the inclusion of those so named there.

There is no reason to believe a flip-flopping witness and police officials whose main moves, whether in the matter of extrajudicial killings or other rights abuses, have been geared to protect an abusive government from accountability.

Instead of filing trumped up charges against the opposition, the government should prosecute all policemen implicated in extrajudicial killings, planting of evidence, and other crimes. It should also file charges against corrupt officials, and enforce the ruling on such personalities like Imelda Marcos. It should stop using the DOJ as a tool for suppression.

The objective here, as what has been done in other cases, is to confuse, corrupt and crush every one who dares to stand up against Duterte. #

Netizens’ free expression in grave threat with cyberlibel conviction

THE CONVICTION of two radio broadcasters in Kidapawan City for simply expressing their opinion in social media –supposedly meant to provide an avenue for personal opinions and narratives – is the latest attack on free expression not only of media practitioners but of everyone who dare share their stand on burning issues. Their conviction may well be a signal that will herald a new wave of attacks against free speech and expression, rights that are in fact enshrined in our very own Constitution.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the conviction meted by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kidapawan City to broadcasters Eric Rodinas of Radyo Natin and Larry Baja Subillaga who were charged with online libel by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza.
In a decision dated March 22, the Kidapawan RTC convicted the two broadcasters of online libel with a penalty imprisonment ranging from a minimum of 4 years and one day to a maximum of 8 years and one day. The broadcasters were also ordered to pay P1 million fine, P1 million for moral damages, and P500,000 for examplary damages.

The case sprung from what Governor Taliño-Mendoza labelled as “malicious” statements posted by the two in their social media accounts last March 2017. In his Facebook post, Subillaga said that Taliño-Mendoza was fooling the people of the province, while Dugaduga said the governor became rich because of corruption. The broadcasters said that they will appeal their conviction before the Supreme Court.

This latest development proves what we have been pointing out ever since the passage of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012: that it can be exploited to silence criticism by well-entrenched and powerful people, especially government officials. RA 10175 not only criminalizes libel – something that has long been clamored to be decriminalized – but also sets penalties “one degree higher” than that provided for libel in the Revised Penal Code.

Weaponizing online libel adds to the long list of attacks perpetrated by state forces to the media, which include harassment of journalists, cyber attacks on newssites, legal debacles, and most heinously, killings. This latest development only intensifies the reigning climate of impunity brutely cultivated and propagated by the current administration. Online libel is yet another lethal weapon that can be abused to silence criticism by an apparent insecure government afraid of the truth. We reiterate our call to repeal the anti-cybercrime law, decriminalize libel, and to put a stop to all forms of attacks against legitimate dissent and free speech.

Rappler correspondent evicted from CDO school where Duterte appeared

NUJP ALERT
March 25, 2019

Rappler’s Cagayan de Oro City correspondent was told to leave the campus of the University of Science and Technology in Southern Philippines (USTP) Sunday, March 24, hours before President Rodrigo Roa Duterte arrived to lead the campaign rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.

Rappler correspondent Bobby Lagsa said he was outside the USTP gymnasium, where the campaign rally was underway, doing person-on-the-street interviews when he was approached by a staff of the Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO) and told to leave the campus “Para ‘di na tayo magkahiyaan (to avoid embarrassment).”

Lagsa said he was doing interviews outside the venue after he was denied accreditation to cover the event the day before.

He said he tried to get accredited via the Cagayan de Oro City Information Office (CIO) which referred his application to the MARO.

Lagsa said he did not encounter any problem getting inside the USTP campus at about 5 pm and was able to interview several persons outside the gymnasium before he was told to leave.

He said he was wearing his Rappler ID while doing the interviews but said he did not try to get inside the gymnasium. #

PNA story proves gov’t behind vilification—NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said a state news agency’s story accusing the media group of maintaining links with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirms government’s hand in the vilification campaign.

Reacting to a Philippine News Agency (PNA) story Tuesday, the NUJP said it can already say for certain that the Rodrigo Duterte government is behind the attacks against the media group.

“Thanks to the Philippine News Agency, which under this administration has been transformed into a paragon of incompetence and fakery masquerading as ‘journalism,’ for providing proof positive with the January 8 article, ‘Red link tag on NUJP not ‘orchestrated’: ex-rebels,” the NUJP said.

“The PNA article follows the style of the canard foisted by the tabloids, which liberally quoted the fantastical and totally fictional account of a supposed ex-rebel and ‘NUJP founder’ who went by the alias ‘Ka Ernesto’ without even bothering to get our side,” the group added.

Four tabloids published stories Monday accusing the NUJP of fronting for the CPP, quoting a certain “Ka Ernesto” who claimed he was a founding member of the union.

The NUJP immediately denied the accusation, saying its membership reflect a broad spectrum of creeds and beliefs united only by their desire to defend and expand the bounds of freedom of the press and of free expression.

Quoting a purported group called Kilusan at Alyansa ng mga Dating Rebelde (KADRE), PNA’s story denied that “revelations” against the NUJP is part of an orchestrated or “well-planned” operation to intimidate critical journalists into silence.

Ang gusto po namin ay malinaw na sagot kung totoo bang legal front ng CPP-NPA-NDF ang NUJP (We just want to know the clear answer if the NUJP is a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front),” the PNA quoted KADRE as allegedly saying.

KADRE claims it is a group of more than 300 former members of the CPP and New People’s Army nationwide.

The group has yet to make a public appearance.

Aside from PNA and the four tabloids, however, no other media outfit published a story on KADRE’s accusation against the NUJP.

“That the state news agency, which is under the supervision of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, saw fit to run this utterly malicious and false story clearly proves that this is, indeed, an orchestrated campaign to vilify and silence not just the NUJP but the independent and critical press, involving no less than the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” the NUJP said.

“Pathetic as this effort is, we are taking it very seriously as a direct threat by government against the NUJP and independent media and will take what steps necessary to protect our members and our rights,” the group added.

The NUJP earlier said it is seeking advice for possible legal actions against its accusers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Futile canard’: Media group denounces red-tagging

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is thinking of taking legal actions against continued efforts to link the media group with the communist revolutionary movement it sees as part of an orchestrated effort to intimidate it into silence.

NUJP officers found themselves answering requests for interviews today from community news outfits around the country soliciting reactions to charges by someone identified only as “Ka Ernesto,” who claimed to be a former member and supposedly “admitted” that the organization had links to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison.

The group said that when asked where the story originated from, they invariably pointed to banner stories carried by a number of little-known Manila-based tabloids – Police Files Tonite, Bagong Bomba and Saksi Mata ng Katotohanan – all of which carried the exact same headline: “NUJP pinamumunuan ng CPP-NPA-NDF” (NUJP headed by CPP-NPA-NDF), the latter initials referring to the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front.

Today’s front page of the tabloid Bagong Bomba.

This is the second time in just a few weeks the NUJP has been linked to the revolutionary movement since a certain Mario Ludades, claiming to be one of the founders of the CPP, accused the media group of being a “legal front” of the underground movement in stories run by several outfits on December 26, incidentally the 50th anniversary of the CPP.

“It is hilarious that they keep repeating these charges since the NUJP’s membership represents a broad spectrum of creeds and political beliefs bound by a common dedication to defending and expanding the bounds of freedom of the press and of expression,” the group’s national directorate said in a statement today.

NUJP officers said they were initially tempted to ignore the “fantastic” and “hilarious” account of “Ka Ernesto” but for the fact that it exposes their members and other colleagues to potential danger from those who might readily believe the “canard”.

“With at least 12 colleagues slain under the watch of a president who has actually justified the murder of journalists… and openly and constantly curses and threatens media, we are taking this matter very, very seriously,” the group said.

Today’s front page of the tabloid Saksi.

Duterte’s attacks

Early in his term, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech before reporters in his hometown Davao City that media killings are justified.

“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch?” Duterte said.

Duterte never let up against media outfits he perceives to be overly critical of his presidency, even threatening to block media group ABS-CBN’s petition to have its broadcast franchise renewed with the House of Representatives.

In December 2017, Duterte said he would only be willing to compromise with ABS-CBN if the network helps promote his campaign to shift to a federal form of government.

“Kung magtulong kayo diyan sa federal system campaign at gawain ninyong slogan also for the unity and to preserve this republic, makipag-areglo ako,” he said.

He repeatedly threatened the Philippine Daily Inquirer and its owners’ business interests.

Following a tirade against Rappler, the Securities and Exchange Commission cancelled the outfit’s license while prosecutors filed tax evasion charges against its chief executive officer Maria Ressa.

Individual journalists accused of being overly critical against Duterte’s bloody drug war were also threatened and harassed by social media groups and online trolls supportive of Duterte.

Recently, websites of alternative media groups were also digitally attacked they said may be part of the crackdown against so-called communist fronts.

“It does not take genius to figure out who is behind this determined, if futile, effort to cow us. But we tell you now and will tell you again, do your worst, you will fail,” the NUJP vowed.

‘Enemies of press freedom’

The NUJP also condemned the three tabloids who published the “canard”.

“It is unfortunate that there exist within the profession unscrupulous scum who allow themselves to be used by these cowardly enemies of press freedom even if it endangers colleagues,” the NUJP said, obviously referring to the three tabloids.

“But we will let them be. Their venality shames them enough,” the NUJP said.

The group warned, however, that it will hound those who are behind the red-tagging campaign and make them pay should its members are harmed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP denounces ‘CPP legal front’ tag, news website takedowns

Dec. 26, 2018

On December 26, 2018, several news outfits carried stories about a certain Mario Ludades, who claims to be a former ranking officer and founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, accusing the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines of being one of the supposed “legal fronts” of the revolutionary movement.

On the same day, the alternative media outfits Bulatlat and Kodao – which both house NUJP chapters – were taken down almost simultaneously before noon.

That these assaults on freedom of the press and of free expression took place on the 50th founding anniversary of the CPP is clearly no coincidence.

This is, of course, not the first time the NUJP has been the target of such lies. The organization was also one of those identified as “enemies of the state” in the PowerPoint presentation “Knowing the Enemy” created in 2005 by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and which the military showed in schools and other venues.

In the case of Ludades, who identifies himself as spokesman of the “No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition” and an indigenous people’s leader in the Cordillera region, it does not take rocket science to guess who is behind him and the lies he spouts.

The charge of being a “legal front” of the communists is so absurd it is tempting to dismiss it outright. Nevertheless, we are treating it seriously because it puts the organization, its officers and members in potential risk.

On the other hand, the takedowns of Bulatlat and Kodao, which state security forces have also time and again accused of links to the revolutionary underground, bear similar signs as the attack that led to the shutting down of the NUJP site a few months back.

The attack on the alternative media outfits happened soon after they posted stories about the CPP.

They also come after an incident last week when armed men in civilian clothes believed to be military or police operatives were seen in the vicinity of the office building that houses Kodao and a number of activist organizations that the government openly tags as “front organizations” of the communist revolutionary movement.

We stress that the “alternative media” are a legitimate part of the Philippine media community whose take on current events and issues broaden the national discourse and provide an invaluable contribution to the growth of democracy.

Only those who seek to suppress freedom of thought and of expression would seek to silence them and, for that matter, independent media as a whole.

If Ludades and his handlers, and those behind the taking down of the Bulatlat and Kodao sites, couldn’t be more wrong if they think they can intimidate us with stupid stunts like these.

The NUJP and all independent Filipino journalists have not and will never be cowed into giving up the continued struggle for genuine freedom of the press and of expression in the country. This is not a boast. It is a fact.

See related article here: https://www.gmanetwork.com/…/ex-cpp-member-exposes-…/story/…

NATIONAL DIRECTORATE

NUJP on the 70th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is terribly unfortunate that seven decades since this landmark document was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, this day is marked not so much in celebration as in noting how people continue to be deprived of these rights or see these snatched away by repressive governments.

The Philippines, of course, knows this only too well in the last two and a half years since Rodrigo Duterte became president and launched his bloody war on drugs, in waging which he has also taken to openly insulting and attacking critics of the murderous campaign.

Among his targets have been media outfits and their news staff, relentlessly and baselessly accusing them of spreading disinformation, a charge his supporters have echoed and used to threaten and harass journalists, even exhorting others to do the same even as they themselves knowingly spread falsehoods.

Article 19 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

This right is also enshrined in Section 4, Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.”

As we mark another year of violated human rights and repressed freedoms, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines reaffirms our commitment to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the country.

We call on all independent Filipino journalists to strengthen our bonds and solidify our ranks, and resist all efforts to silence or otherwise prevent us from fulfilling our task of serving the people’s sacred right to know.

And amid the continuing efforts to silence critical speech and thought, let us give these voices the space and airtime they deserve that they may be heard and contribute to the ever evolving work in progress that is our democracy. #

 

–THE NUJP NATIONAL DIRECTORATE