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2018: High time to strengthen press freedom



As the international community celebrates World Press Freedom Day, the United Nations is rallying support to imprint awareness on the importance of ensuring a stronger press freedom in the modern age.

"On World Press Freedom Day 2018, I call on governments to strengthen press freedom, and to protect journalists. Promoting a free press is standing up for our right to truth," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his World Press Freedom Day message issued Thursday (May 3, 2018).

In 2017, at least 79 journalists were assassinated worldwide in the exercise of their profession. Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, meanwhile, cited a general analysis of "growing animosity" towards journalists.

The youth, despite bleakness on journalism's future, however, is still keen on pursuing a role in the industry.

Eleazar Batalla, a third-year Communications student at the University of the East, is intent to pursue the path of a journalist.

Batalla said he is aware of the field's pitfalls such as poor pay and safety risks. Despite this, it is the sense that he can contribute to the society that pushes him to chase his "future job."

"It is important to be informed. If no one would be willing to become a light in darkness, who would do it? I am willing to be that one candle, because I think I can make a difference albeit small," he said.

In the future, Batalla hoped people will come to trust journalists as reporter of facts, a watchdog with the sole duty to search and supply truth.

Kuhlin Ceslie Gacula, a graduating Journalism student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, shares similar sentiments.

"I believe that in this path, I can contribute a lot in our country in terms of disseminating factual information on issues that matter," she said.

"Sometimes, it's really not in the pay," she said. "That's the picture I've set in my mind I'll be doing in the future."

This year's World Press Freedom theme is titled "Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law."

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation said this invites individuals to think of the relations between the media, justice and the rule of law.

It underscores the pressing need to enable a legal environment for press freedom, and how the role of an independent judiciary is vital for the prosecution of crimes against journalists.

Being timely, it also examines the new challenges of the freedom of online press.

May 3 marked the World Press Freedom Day. But despite 25 years of its commemoration, like any other freedom, freedom of the press "is never completely secure," said Azoulay.

Karen Ow-Yong, a broadcaster at the DZRH radio station, meanwhile, is hopeful the industry will never cease to lose its role in society-- to provide vital information for effective nation building.

Despite dread in the current " free" press, the radio anchor highlights how May 3 is the celebration of journalism itself.

It remains the "sacred profession that people still look up to as the source of credible news and information," Ow-Yong said.

Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA