By Chit Estella
December 27, 2006
Time magazine’s choice of Asian heroes gave
Filipinos a big reason to be proud. There in the list of the most illustrious names in the continent were four Filipinos: one a former president; another, a superb billiards player; and two, journalists. Two journalists out of four heroes—can anything be more telling of the role that media practitioners play in this country? That Eugenia Duran Apostol and Letty Jimenez Magsanoc were cited for their courage during the Marcos dictatorship serves to emphasize what journalism can do to bring about social change.
But when we remember the Marcos years, we also remember a time that seemed to have no end. In its early years, martial law was such a formidable enemy that few dared to challenge it. The dictator knew where to strike and he struck at media. For a very long time, mainstream media was Marcos media.
Who then carried out the task of informing the Filipino people of the events that mainstream media would not touch? In the era that has been accurately described as the dark days, there existed an underground press. It was made up of several kinds of journalists: those who left the legal press and decided to go underground, those who still worked in mainstream media but who quietly supported the underground movement, and those who worked full time with the so-called UG press.
It was a very interesting time. As narrated in this issue’s article by Carolina S. Malay, underground publications were surreptitiously delivered and passed around. One must say that many copies found their way to the masses in the cities and countryside; a good number were secretly received by ordinary men and women, students, professionals, businessmen—and a future president.
And so the underground press is the first of many heroes of the press that PJR Reports will be featuring, starting on this issue. There are many more and they, too, shall be counted.
Repression in the past has the unfortunate habit of resurfacing in the present. What little recourse there is left in a vaunted democracy should therefore be taken advantage of, and that is what journalists who were sued by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo are doing. They are taking legal action against Arroyo in a class suit that is the first of its kind in the world.
Trying times in media never cease and what better way to meet them than to prepare young journalists for the work that lies ahead. The task falls on the country’s numerous journalism schools but the question is, are they doing a good job? Editors and reporters were asked about this. But journalism educators are not just standing by and waiting for answers. In a conference early this month, academicians and experts in journalism met to find out what is lacking in the curriculum and to draw up a more effective guide for future practitioners. In a personal essay, journalism professor Luis V. Teodoro spells out what he hopes his students have learned in the countless hours of lectures he has spent with them. Have they been listening?
We wonder—and hope for the best.