(Photo credit: AlterMidya)

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines demands the immediate release of community journalist Frenchiemae Cumpio, executive director of independent news outfit Eastern Vista and anchor of the radio program Lingganay han Kamatuoran, who was one of five persons arrested in simultaneous raids in Tacloban City early Friday morning, February 7.

According to the AlterMidya Network, of which Eastern Vista is a member, Cumpio, 21, was arrested with known human rights leaders, including Marissa Cabaljao, spokesperson of the People’s Surge Network.

They are detained at the Palo police office and are reportedly being charged with illegal possession of firearms.

Before her arrest, Cumpio had been the subject of continued harassment and intimidation by men and at least one woman believed to be state security agents who had been tailing her around since September last year.

In the most recent incident on February 2, an unidentified man described by witnesses as tall and sporting a military-style haircut, visited the Eastern Vista office bearing a bouquet of flowers and a photo of Cumpio as he asked residents for her whereabouts.

The arrest of Cumpio is reminiscent of that of Anne Krueger of the Negros-based alternative media outfit Paghimud-os, who was among the more than 50 persons arrested in simultaneous raids by the military and police on the offices of legal organizations long accused by the government of being “fronts” of the communist rebel movement.

Cumpio’s arrest is clearly part of government’s crackdown against not only these supposed communist fronts but the critical media, mainstream and alternative, as well.

Since last year, the government has no longer bothered to hide the fact that the critical media have been included in their list of “enemies of the state.”

The arrests of Cumpio and, before her, Krueger, the red-tagging of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other press freedom groups and advocates, the continued attempts to shut down Rappler, ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are all part of this government’s efforts to silence the free exchange of ideas and coopt media into mouthing only what it allows.

We offer our full support to Cumpio and our colleagues in Eastern Vista and Lingganay han Kamatuoran and call on the community of independent Filipino journalists to close ranks with us.

Let us thwart this government’s attempts to muzzle freedom of the press and of expression, without which democracy cannot survive. Let us send out the message that we are free not because anyone allows us to be but because we insist on being free.

National Directorate