Thursday, April 03, 2008

To Manila and back...

to Manila again this week. I spent 3 weeks in Manila near the end of February and up to the middle of March, and that included speaking at a conference on Impunity and Press Freedom in the Philippines co-organized by the Center for Media and Press Freedom (CMFR) and the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA), with funding from the Open Society Institute's Justice Initiative.

One thing that made me happy I went to the conference was the presence of many radio and print journalists from outside Metro Manila. This was important, if not essential in discussing impunity and the victimization of Filipino press workers. The disproportionate number of "provincial" journalists (those quotation marks should tell you that I am as sensitive as any Cebuano/a and other probinsiyano/a is about how "provincial" is often used to imply some kind of inferiority) among the victims of extrajudicial killings from 2000 onward is disturbing. More than half of the press workers killed since 2000, it is said, worked outside Manila. Most of them were working in radio stations. It indicates that -- the NDF's effort to conflate these deaths with the military's targeting of the NDF-sympathetic Left notwithstanding -- life is more dangerous outside Metro Manila for press workers, for most full-time journalists, certainly, but apparently more so for so-called radio blocktimers. A Manila Times special report I think correctly attributes part of this disproportionate targeting of broadcasters outside Manila to the confrontation between the undying feudal values of political dynasties, warlords and politicians in the provinces and the impact (the report describes it as "modernizing," but I think it is more of a democratizing effect) that industrialization and the infrastucture that it brings -- more radio stations, more powerful broadcast signals, on-line newspapers, cellphones! -- has on the distribution of political power. A mouthful, that, but among the provincial --in that sort-of-good, Cebuano-centric way -- journalists that I was happy to see again in the conference were Sunstar Daily's Cheking Seares, ABS-CBN Cebu's Leo Lastimosa and of course, that institution of Philippine journalism named Johnny Mercado.

More to come...have to run to the airport!

(And before I forget: here's what I said at the conference. Or at least the summary of it.)

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