Is the pen really mightier than the sword?

Is the pen really mightier than the sword?

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Most of you are clean but do not ever say all journalists are clean. Just because you are a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you are a son of a bitch.

— President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

FOLLOWING the fatal shooting of Cebu radio commentator Rico Osmeña, Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco disclosed that he had directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to use all of its resources to identify and arrest Osmeña’s killers while he was inside a bus traveling along Urdaneta Street in Barangay San Roque in Cebu City.

Egco added in a news release later that while the police are still conducting an investigation, the task force will consider the shooting of Osmeña as “work-related” as a matter of policy.

According to the report of Cebu City’s Police Station 3 commander Major Edgar Labe, Osmeña was apparently shot by two gunmen who boarded the minibus he was riding as it stopped to unload some passengers. Also, hit in the incident was another passenger, who was rushed with Osmeña to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Reacting to the radio commentator’s killing, Egco warned that with the forthcoming elections just a few months away and the campaign period starting by February next year, PTFoMS is expecting to see more cases of threats and violence against media workers.

The undersecretary, a former official of the National Press Club (NPC), added that he will be asking interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año to designate security and focal personnel at the provincial and city levels through the PNP for the protection of media personalities who may be under threat because of their job as sources of information.

Egco explained that focal persons can play a huge role in preventing attacks on journalists who can course through them any threat they are getting even as focal persons will directly report about the threat to the PTFoMS secretariat in Malacañang.

Created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 to help provide a safe environment for media workers and the first of its kind in the world, the PTFoMS is urging journalists and media workers to call the task force if they “feel threatened in any way.”

“We are just a message or a phone call away 24/7. We will provide you with real-time security if you need it,” Egco said.

He added that crime prevention is “always better than solving crimes” as in stopping hired guns from shooting journalists like ducks. Still, prosecuting the killers of journalists is also critical if criminals will have second thoughts about victimizing them.

A report by the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that there were 13 unsolved media killings in 2021, up from 11 the preceding year. It said that 85 journalists had been murdered in the Philippines since 1992 up to the present.

On that offer by PTFoMS to provide journalists under threat with bodyguards, very few journalists, other than those media-cum-celebrity figures, would want to have them. Mediamen consider the danger to life and limbs, as well as danger from harassment and libel suits, as part of the hazards of the trade. And with regards to their job, the media carries the principle that “the pen is mightier than the sword” because stories published about powerful persons could “easily make them or break them.”

Yet it can be said that nobody really brings a pen to a knife fight, so journalists will just have to rely on street smarts and a little bit of paranoia in order to undertake target-hardening measures—like not following travel routines as they go around chasing stories.

And going back to the PTFoMS, I would say that even with its creation, the culture of impunity from which the culture of violence has sprouted has not been actually addressed since until now, my colleagues and I fear for our lives not only from lawless elements and hired killers but even from self-proclaimed journalists who are actually PR men who oftentimes nurture greed and jealousy against those true members of the Fourth Estate.


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