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Philippine Campus Press Freedom

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For years, press freedom has been threatened by rules and governments. On some countries, to be a journalist means to be tortured or jailed for fulfilling an age-long obligation to the public which is to express the truth.

Censorship is the primary weapon of the government in its arsenal in combating the media. It cripples the power of speech by the media through deletion of material that is considered harmful for the stability of the ruling powers. But stating stability of the government as the reason for censorship is vague.

Yet not only the mainstream nor the underground media are subjected to censorship but also the journalists from the high school and college levels as well. Student publications are severely subjected to censors which bar them from publishing articles that are against the school administration or those that make the school ugly from the outside, thus, making potential transferees and shiftees think twice before enrolling to the school.

A Brief History

The first school paper to be published is still disputed by historians. Jesus Valenzuela in the History of Journalism in the Philippine Islands (1933) and John Lent in Philippine Mass Communication (1964) puts El Liliputiense of the University of Santo Tomas as the first student publication while Oscar Manalo, Narciso Matienzo, and Virgilio Monteloyola in Ang Pamahayagan (1985), place The College Folio, now The Philippine Collegian as the starter of campus journalism here in the Philippines. (Escote)

In the high school level, Manila High School, now the Araullo High School, published The Coconut under the editorship of Carlos P. Romulo. (Cruz 1)

The first regularly printed school paper was the La Union Tab of La Union High School. It was published in 1923. Since then, different high schools and colleges established their respective school paper. Among these school organs are The Pampangan by Pampanga High School in 1925; The Leytean by Leyte High School in 1925; The Rizalian by Rizal High School in 1926; The Coconut by Tayabas High School in 1927; The Toil by La Union Trade School in 1928; The Melting Pot by Tarlac High School in 1929; The Granary by Nueva Ecija High School in 1929; The Torres Torch by Torres High School in 1930; and The Cagayan Student Chronicler by Cagayan High School in 1930. (Cruz 2)

The first significant regulation on school organs was Circular Letter No. 34 of 1929 which provided requirements concerning publication of school papers. It was issued by the Bureau of Education, now the Department of Education. Some of the requirements included with the circular were:

1. that capable teachers may be available to supervise carefully all steps of the paper's production.

2. that finances be sufficient to avoid seeking subscriptions and to prevent financial embarrassment to the faculty, and

3. that the printer who has equipment to produce a creditable paper to be available.

The circular also opposes poor printing and faulty English in school publications. (Cruz 3)

Republic Act 7079

The government has passed a law for the support of the growth and development of students on journalism in the campus level. This was called Republic Act 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

R.A. 7079's full title is "AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTION OF CAMPUS JOURNALISM AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES." It is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 1103 and House Bill No. 22658, which were passed by the Senate and the House on May 20, 1991 and May 23, 1991, respectively.

It was approved on July 5, 1991, during the fourth regular session of the House of Representatives. It was signed by House Speaker Ramon V. Mitra and Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, and was ratified by President Corazon C. Aquino. (RA 7079)

The aim of the government for the passing of the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, as stated in section 2, is to "..uphold and protect the freedom of the press even at the campus level and to promote the development and growth of campus journalism as a means of strengthening ethical values, encouraging critical and creative thinking, and developing moral character and personal discipline of the Filipino youth." (Robles)

The government also authorizes the Department of Education to hold seminars and competitions such as press conferences for campus journalists and school paper advisers. In accordance with this, the Department of Education holds press conferences in the district, division, regional, and national levels annually.

The act also guarantees that each student publication will receive adequate funding from the government and that the Department of Education must allocate five million pesos for programs related to campus journalism.

One of the most important provisions of the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 is Section 7 entitled Security of tenure.

"A member of the publication staff must maintain his or her status as student in order to retain membership in the publication staff. A student shall not be expelled or suspended solely on the basis of articles he or she has written, or on the basis of the performance of his or her duties in the student publication." (Robles)

Yet, countless students were suspended or expelled due to some aggressive opinions published by student journalists.

Recently KABATAAN Party list Representative Raymond Palatino promised that if elected, he will amend the Campus Journalism Act of 1991. He added that the law is flawed and being used to attack campus press freedom. Palatino also said that he was "deeply bothered to have been accosted with numerous cases of campus publications closing down and other attacks on campus press freedom." He said that he wanted to introduce penalties as according to him, the Campus Journalism Act is lacking punishment to offenders. ("KABATAAN")

Campus Press Censorship and Harassment

To the public, the media is the primary source of information that are needed to be known. Yet, the media continues to be subjected to different threats to their freedom of speech and dissemination of information.

According to Section 4 of the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine 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." (art. III sec. 4)




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