Now more than ever, we need a bill that can truly cater to the needs and address the issues faced by the campus press. Enacted on July 5, 1991, the Campus Journalism Act was implemented out of the interest of the State to “uphold and protect the freedom of the press even at the campus level.” Albeit a step in the right direction, the CJA has proven to be insufficient in serving its purpose – to safeguard the exercise of press freedom in the campus.
Provisions of the said law were deemed problematic and weak, compromising several aspects of student publications all over the country. CJA has not guaranteed the genuine editorial independence of student publications, and can even place them in a financial predicament by making funding optional for school administrations. It also contains vague and conflicting provisions, which, when abused, can be used by higher-ups to censor articles being released by the publication and even permit administrative intervention of the editorial board and its policies.
Student publications have experienced a long history of attacks. Filing a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines have compiled almost a thousand violations against the campus press since 2010. Aside from the usual admin intervention, campus journalists face threats of censorship, defunding, looting of funds, non-collection of fees, suspension of students, libel charges, harassment, and even killings.
The Southern Tagalog region has plenty of recorded Campus Press Freedom Violations. One of the most recent cases is the admin intervention of the Pamantasan ng Cabuyao towards PnC Herald, for the latter posting an alert about a breach of the PnC website. The admin was reportedly angered by the post, and ordered the adviser to take the post down to prevent it from catching attention.
Meanwhile, The Flare of Cavite State University Imus were harassed by cops and disallowed from covering a symposium organized by the Philippine National Police last year. The symposium was reportedly centered on anti-communist propaganda and red-tagged several progressive organizations, while The Flare and other announcements related to the incident were censored.
Even the Perspective is no exception to experiencing CPFVs. Over the years, the publication has faced several of these, such as four cases of manipulation of results and appointment of the Editor-in-Chief in the past two decades, one case of physical assault by Manila Police during a US Embassy mobilization in 2017, and most recently, intimidation by police towards our photojournalist on July 1.
Albeit the CJA supposedly guarantees press freedom, violations continue to happen because the law is toothless and spineless. It provides no mechanism to secure the funding of student publications, no protection for campus journalists, and no penalties for transgressions, leaving perpetrators unaccountable for attacking press freedom.
Because of these reasons, there is an urgent need to repeal the CJA and replace it with a new law – the proposed Campus Press Freedom Bill. Among the provisions the said bill include mandatory funding of student publications, optional appointment of advisers at all levels, security of students’ tenure, and provision of legal assistance to student journalists when needed.
As we celebrate the first campus press freedom day and the 89th anniversary of CEGP, it is important to remember, reaffirm, and uphold the historical role of campus journalists – as independent watchdogs, as checks and balances, as the fearless mosquito press. While the Duterte regime has consolidated its hold on political power, it becomes more necessary for the youth to clamor for the passage of the CPF Bill. We should no longer tolerate the existence of CPFVs, and secure the welfare of the campus press. [P]