PHOTO: Kath Cortez, NUJP Media safety officer, talks about the cases recorded by NUJP Safety Office.

MANILA — In observance of the first National Press Freedom Day in the Philippines last August 30, the NUJP held an online public forum titled, “Asserting Press Freedom, Defending Democracy.” The forum tackled local issues on media defense and lawfare, highlighting data collated by the NUJP Media Safety Office.

The forum began with NUJP Vice Chairperson Kath Cortez discussing the trends on media attacks in the country, highlighting the increasing cases where laws are being weaponized to harass, intimidate, and silence journalists.

Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol, editor in chief of the Northern Dispatch, revealed the impacts of facing a libel charge not just on her personal and professional life, but also on the community of journalists in the Cordillera region. She narrated how such intimidation also translated into a chilling effect among her fellow journalists.

Meanwhile, Atty. Floyd Tiongson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, discussed how journalists and lawyers could work together to defend democracy– from equipping journalists with knowledge and skills on paralegal practice, to expanding networks and legal aid referral systems.

As one of the highlights of the event, NUJP also launched the Declaration of Commitment to Assert Press Freedom and Defend Democracy and invited members of the media as well as lawyers groups to sign.

The declaration is still open for those who would like to sign as of this writing. — Paul Nicholas Soriano, NUJP Secretariat