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[Note: This is a statement of Red Batario, executive director of the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD). I, being a provincial correspondent/stringer for media moguls, concur with Red. Thank you very much sir. Well said.]

It wasn’t exactly a conundrum but a confounding dilemma nonetheless, this business of choosing between dissecting the corrosive impact of corruption on the Philippine news media while savoring the coolness of the highlands or translating the fight against corruption and impunity into action while marching in the festering heat of the city.

Today Media Nation 9 opens.

Lest we have, in the busyness of our work and our lives, shuffled the memory into the backs of our minds, today, the 23rd of November, also marks the third year of the most gruesome aberration called the Maguindanao Massacre that had been set upon the media and Philippine democracy. Today also marks the second year of commemorating November23 as International Day to End Impunity.

The massacre was a beast that nearly eviscerated the community press in that part of Mindanao, demonstrating in horrific detail the vulnerability of journalists who live and work in the provinces and who have often been, and still are, put to task for, among other things, suborning the practice of journalism. They are often portrayed as easy prey for blandishments of many kinds or willing participants in rent-seeking and rent-giving. Or that they are paid hacks of politicians and are bereft of any ethical norm or standard. This may be partly true but realities on the ground present a different picture and context of the vulnerabilities faced by community journalists.

But only they can tell with a certain amount of acuity and pathos the day-to-day challenges of practicing the craft in an environment that treats journalism and journalists as malleable avenues for advancing self interests…including media owners who consider reporters and staff as nothing but vassals.

We at the Center for Community Journalism and Development cannot claim to represent them or to articulate their own thoughts and concerns. We can only provide them the opportunity, whenever and wherever it arises, and in this instance we had thought the coming of Media Nation9 would have given them that chance to tell their story and provide fresh insights in addressing those challenges.

Their inability to participate in MN9 due to some logistical shortcomings puts into question the meeting’s priorities in terms of hearing a plurality of media voices especially from the community press, members of whom are often targets of violence. Because of corruption? Who knows? Only they can tell.

While we have chosen to join the march to Mendiola for the commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, we bring with us also the hope that MN9 will send a strong message for all journalists, editors, reporters, staff, media owners, networks, publishing houses to seriously and squarely address issues that beset practitioners among which are economic security, personal safety, social welfare and professional standards the lack or absence of which leads to journalists’ vulnerability.

Our call for an end to a culture of impunity is also a call for an end to media corruption. Our plea for justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre is a plea for a better understanding of the complex issues and challenges that beset community journalists in the Philippines.

This is why we are in Mendiola and not in Tagaytay.

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