PHILIPPINES: Newspaper Publisher Fails to Uphold Press Freedom

PBCoverLAUREN CHEN WRITES – This February, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) recognized the late Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot Sr. and four others as “Press Freedom Heroes.”

But try telling that to Inquirer cartoonist Pol Medina Jr., whose recent suspension, censorship and eventual resignation challenges that esteemed legacy.

Medina’s Pugad Baboy (Swine’s Nest) comic strip was suspended following a satirical commentary on homophobic Christians, after St. Scholastica’s College, a Catholic women’s school, threatened to sue the Inquirer. The comic commented on the “hypocrisy of Catholic institutions that condemn homosexuality and discriminate against lesbians and gays,” suggesting that the students and some nuns might be lesbians.

The Inquirer’s current publisher, Raul Pangalangan, cut the strip and issued an apology in which he stated, “The Inquirer confirms its commitment to the highest standards of accuracy, fairness and good taste.”

But what about the fight against impunity?

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), an “organization of writers, artists and cultural workers committed to the principles of freedom, justice and democracy,” condemned Pangalangan’s decision.

“Medina’s resignation is an unfortunate development. The PDI’s suspension and censorship of Pugad Baboy is a threat to freedom of expression. This can set a dangerous precedent for other publications and media institutions under similar situations,” said CAP spokesperson Renan Ortiz.

If Pangalangan’s predecessors were “press freedom heroes,” we’re not sure what that makes him. But it sets a bad example for Philippine media generally, and for the “liberal” Inquirer in particular.

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