How women journalists pushed limits during Martial Law
by Ria de Fiesta, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA -- Three women journalists who shared their experiences before and after the People Power Revolution in 1986 recalled how they pushed the limits -- and eventually struck a chord in the heart of the public.
Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), said women journalists during Martial Law realized that they had certain advantages and "were willing to push the limits of what can be tolerated."
"While every now and then, columns would either not be published or be published only in parts, we were able to create a venue that struck a chord in the heart of the public," she said on ANC's "EDSA28: A Talkback Special" that aired Monday.
Former President Ferdinand Marcos, according to Journalism for Nation Building Foundation head Marites Vitug, knew he had to show a semblance of democracy in the country because he was courting international support.
"So he allowed these 'little mosquitoes' -- what he called the 'mosquito press' -- to come out with articles that were independent. But we were careful not to be too overly critical of the First Family because that was the rule," she said.
Vitug said journalists during Martial Law knew they had limits, but could not afford to be closed down because there were more stories to report.
But the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino changed everything.
"It was in 1983 which really emboldened a lot of journalists, and even the public," she said.
Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, agreed saying it was Ninoy's death which triggered unity among journalists during that time.
"I think the media unions played a very important role… (there were) efforts to actually organize the media so that more and more people could take bolder steps to take a stand together. So when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, there was mourning in the press club, in the newsrooms, in the media unions, and so they had taken part in some of the activities and forums never before heard of until the time," she said.
De Jesus, meanwhile, shared how the "protest press" came into being, saying journalists wrote what they felt they had to write, up until the assassination of Ninoy.
"It took us into different areas and different issues. Up to 1983 however, when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, by that time... we were jobless journalists. Then (came) the protest press, there were others that preceded it, but at that point we drew the line. We were the ones who were going to put out as much news as there is to find about Marcos," she recalled.
Mangahas said there were people within media who tried to insert a story about a political prisoner, a story about a massacre in some province, but "it was like a cat-and-mouse game every bit of the way."
She remembered women journalists who were summoned by the National Intelligence Board for Inquiry, which she said was actually a euphemism for interrogation, for the articles they wrote.
"They would be reviewed as an intelligence officer would for intent, content, effect… it was not simply cyber libel or malice but the intent of the writer, the content of the article and the effect of the article on audience," Mangahas said.
Asked if over the years, the media has been able to tell the real story of EDSA, Vitug said, "I think there are various voices that make up the story of EDSA. Many have been written, there are many books, but the stories continue to be written."