Journalism's Future ... Now

The Mānoa Mirror

Journalism's Future ... Now

The Mānoa Mirror

Journalism's Future ... Now

The Mānoa Mirror

Journalists pay high cost in fight for press freedom

Alyssa Francesca Salcedo
(From left to second to the right) Soe Myint, Karmina Constantino, Tom Grundy, and Sincha Dimara are panelists for the “Free Voices: The State of Press Freedom in the Asia-Pacific Region” breakout session at the 2024 East-West Center International Media Conference in Manila. Karen Davila (right) moderated the panel.

A free press often comes at a high cost, and for many reporters, it means facing government scrutiny and possible retaliation.

Veteran journalists shared their own battles for press freedom at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Manila. Soe Myint, the editor-in-chief and founder of Mizzima based in Thailand, Tom Grundy, editor-in-chief and founder of the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), Sincha Diamara, news editor for Inside PNG (Papua New Guinea) and Karmina Constantino and Karen Davila, anchors from ABS-CBN News, were part of a panel called “Free Voices: The State of Press Freedom in the Asia-Pacific Region.”

Myint, Grundy and Diamara were recipients of this year’s EWC Journalists of Courage and Impact Award, while Constantino and Davila survived ABS-CBN’s shutdown after the government declined to renew its free broadcasting license in 2020.

The journalists reflected on their differing circumstances, whether it be knowing what lines could not be crossed, the commitments they honored, the compromises they needed to make to survive — or most importantly, the love of country that drives them all forward.

“I may be a journalist, but I’m a Filipino first, so that is my core. So eventually, it should not contradict, right? Because to fight for press freedom is to fight for your country’s interest as well. So to me, there should be no compromise, no boundaries,” said Constantino.

Constantino’s unrelenting stance comes at a time when coverage of the tensions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, known as the West Philippine Sea in the Philippines, could be seen as ‘xenophobic’ due to the threats China has made against Filipino fishermen.

“There’s no [country] boundary when we talk about press freedom,” said Myint.

Myint added that this was because many foreign policies, such as ones implemented by the British during the colonial era or the Chinese in present-day, hold a strong influence on the state of Myanmar today.

“We often talk about having a patriotic media and a patriotic legislature in Hong Kong. And in one sense, the highest form of patriotism is dissent and criticism – why we all want our home to be better. And after 20 years, Hong Kong is my home,” said Grundy.

Grundy said it is difficult to dissent and criticize China, especially as it utilizes various legal mechanisms to find reasons to imprison journalists. HKFP remains largely crowd-funded by its readers.

“Leaders who have the power see that they try to manipulate the media industry, to the point that they will go to the media industry if they’re not happy. They just want common propaganda published. When it’s bad publicity, they will pinpoint the media,” said Dimara.

Dimara spoke about the challenges surrounding job insecurity in Papua New Guinea’s media industry after journalists fought for their rights. She and PNG are looking to find ways to promote media literacy in their educational curriculums.

Other topics discussed include the business of journalism as a free press issue, ownership interests of media companies, and the parallels drawn between their experiences.

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Francesca Salcedo
Alyssa Francesca Salcedo is a first-year Journalism student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is a member of the Journalism Student Leadership Council and is a contributor to The Mānoa Mirrorʻs social media committee. She plans to utilize her journalism experiences to improve community reporting and play a part in keeping the campus well-informed on current events and issues.

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