A celebration of truth and courage

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo September 18,2018 - 01:22 AM

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Piat owned by Luie Nacorda witness the opening mass of the 2018 Press Freedom week officiated by Auxiliary bishop Dinnes Villarojo in Capitol Social Hall.

CEBU PRESS FREEDOM WEEK

In the wake of fake news proliferating on social media and a pervading lack of public trust even in legitimate news reports, is it still relevant to celebrate press freedom?

The question arose as the celebration of the 26th Cebu Press Freedom Week from September 15-22 was launched.

A senator, a vice governor and a top businessman who were among the respondents of an informal poll conducted by Cebu Daily News on the matter shared a
common view: Press freedom still deserves to be celebrated.

“A free press gives us the chance to know the truth about ourselves, our countries, our governments. This makes us better,” said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.

He said that a free press “gives voice to the voiceless, holds leaders accountable, (and) exposes injustice.”

“That’s why the press should not only be truthful, but courageous, and true to its mission to be loyal to the people,” Pangilinan added.

For Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, the celebration of press freedom remains relevant, more so today, when it has become very easy for fake news to be spread as facts.

“People are hungry for information. Real and true information (that) legitimate press can provide. Not fake news,” said Magpale.

Anton Mari Perdices, chief operations officer (COO) of Visayan Electric Company (Veco), said that the press freedom week celebration reminds everyone that there are still men and women in Cebu media who continue to fight for the truth to be heard, read and seen by the public despite all the challenges.

“Braving all these challenges and being steadfast in your duty to inform the public is worth celebrating. It is during challenging times that victories, big or small, should be celebrated,” said Perdices.

History

On its website, www.cebujournalism.org, the Cebu Journalism and Journalists (CJJ) traced the roots of the weeklong celebration to the year 1984 when the Association of Cebu Journalists, the Cebu Newspaper Workers’ Foundation (Cenewof) and Cebu News Correspondents Club organized a Cebu Press Week celebration “to remind the public and the press that the freedom it enjoys must be protected from all threats.”

Four years later, in 1988, the Council of Cebu Media Leaders (CCML) was organized to promote media as a profession, upgrade its practice and police its ranks.

It was then when the celebration was renamed Cebu Press Freedom Week.

However, the yearly event timed each September — the month Ferdinand Marcos’ declared Martial Law in the Philippines back in 1972 — was not without controversy.

Questions on the legitimacy and motives behind the celebration led CCML to cancel the Cebu Press Freedom Week celebration in 1996.

The following year, the members of Cebu’s working media — and no longer CCML — organized the affair.

“In 1998, Cebu’s Working Media agreed to hold the celebration on the week with Sept. 21 in it, to commemorate the 1972 declaration of Martial Law, which had led to flagrant violations against press freedom,” the CJJ noted.

To prevent non-media groups from exploiting the affair, it has been limited to active members of the different media outfits.

In 1999, the convenor’s group institutionalized the celebration of Cebu Press Freedom Week when it was agreed that each of the three newspapers: CDN, SunStar, and The Freeman, would take turns in leading the activity each year.

The Board of Trustees of the Cebu Press Freedom Week Inc., led by Sun.Star Cebu executive editor Michelle So, was responsible for laying down the policies for the annual weeklong celebration.

Unique

The 26th Cebu Press Freedom Week celebration kicked off with an opening program at the Social Hall of the Cebu Provincial Capitol, Sunday.

“The Press Freedom Week celebration, as we all know, is unique to Cebu because this is the one week when competition among news organizations is set aside in favor of fostering camaraderie and highlighting our common aspirations for the betterment of the news industry and its workers,” said Edralyn Benedicto, the editor-in-chief of CDN, this year’s lead convenor.

This year’s celebration includes the Mr. and Ms. Press Freedom competition, photography exhibits, a forum for future journalists, learning and sharing sessions and fellowships.

Celestial Voices Chorale during the opening mass of the 2018 Press Freedom week in Capitol Social Hall. (Photo below) Members of LENS show one of their winning performance during the Press Freedom fellowship night contest last 2015.

Is it still relevant to celebrate Press Freedom?

“Press freedom is like the air we breathe. Take it away and we die.”
– Malou Guanzon Apalisok, veteran broadcaster and CDN columnist

“Celebrating Press Freedom will always be relevant whether in the best or worst of times. Because we must either remain grateful for the grace of free expression when there’s democratic dominion, or be vigilant when this freedom and other fundamental rights are threatened by forces of oppression.”
– Myke Obenieta, poet and former Sun.Star Cebu editor

“It is never irrelevant to celebrate the freedom of a responsible press.”
– Retired Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr., CDN columnist

“Yes, it is very important to celebrate Press Freedom to remind the public that true journalism still exists. That truthful, reliable and accurate news can only be read, heard and seen through legitimate media outfits.”
– Jaclyn Cecile Velasco, high school teacher/librarian

“It is relevant because we have to constantly remind ourselves that without freedom of the press, we can’t weigh issues critically and objectively. We need press freedom to discern the truth from the frequent barrage of information from all types of sources.
– Ahmed Cuizon, LTFRB-3 Regional Director

“YES! It is very relevant especially now with so many negative comments against the press. We have to keep the conversations going on press freedom.”
– Elisabeth Baumgart, development worker and former news reporter.

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