The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines congratulates our former chair, Inday Espina-Varona for winning the Prize for Independence handed out by Reporters Without Borders in London.
We thank Inday for recognizing the role independent Filipino journalists have played in defending and advancing our people’s rights and liberties and defending democracy despite the dangers they face, not least from the very forces supposedly sworn to protect and preserve our freedoms.
We share here Inday’s acceptance speech, from which we all can and should draw inspiration:
Thank you, Reporters Without Borders for this honor. I share this with embattled Philippine colleagues: the 185 killed since the 1986 restoration of a fragile, perpetually threatened democracy, 12 of them in the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule.
This is also for colleagues who face death threats, vilification campaigns, and revocation of access to coverage, for doing what journalists are supposed to do — questioning official acts and claims, especially on issues of human rights and corruption.
Other threats are more insidious — like having journalists becoming witnesses to cases filed by cops in the aftermath of raids, practically a quid pro quo for continued access to police operations.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has launched ta campaign to repeal the law that fuels this practice. We hope you can all support the NUJP in this struggle.
There is another grave problem we face: the proposed draconian changes to the law that would make terrorists of practically all critics of the government and make journalists and media accessories whenever we give voice to persons and groups the government deems “terrorist” — practically all dissenters.
I am proud of Philippine journalism, of colleagues who probe not only the effects of growing autocracy, but also the roots of social woes that allowed a false messiah to bedazzle our people.
If I am independent, it is because there are colleagues and fellow citizens who fight for rights and freedoms, who refuse to be silent in the face of thousands of murders and other injustices, who fight on despite threats, arrests and torture, whose words and deeds speak from beyond the grave.
Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years.
And we are brave because our people are brave.
We cannot let them down. We will never forget — never forget the dark past. And never forget that we triumphed over that past and will again overcome.