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It's 5 a.m. The daily paper just hit newsstands. On the front page is your article exposing an underground drug ring led by high profile, local kingpins. The story lists names of corrupt police officers, government officials and crime leaders linked to the operation. Published in another country, the public would hail your work as exemplary, investigative journalism--an asset to society.
But as you read the headline, your only concern is whether you will make it through the day alive.
This scenario might seem outlandish for journalists in a thriving democracy such as the United States. But for reporters in Philippine provinces, the situation is all too real. While the country struggles to break away from its past dictatorship, journalists work in the absence of open access legislation--utilizing whatever sources are available. Having total control of the information allows local, corrupt governments to function with little or no accountability. For too many, the result is fatal.
Last year, 13 journalists were killed in various cities of the Philippines. As of early August there already had been six deaths in 2005. Since 1986, 69 journalists have lost their lives for gathering and publishing information critical of local government or dangerous organized crime leaders, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
Although the public's right to access information is guaranteed in the 1987 Philippine constitution, often times the liberty is tainted with the possibility of severe and even deadly consequences for publishing it. Consequences that, in turn, can negate the intended function of freedom of information.
"The Philippines project an image that it is free, that there is press freedom and all that. All that is just veneer," said Carlos Conde, a journalist for the International Herald Tribune in the Philippine capital city Manila. "At least in China or Burma, we know that the governments there are repressive. Here, the government projects itself to be free, but a different thing is going on behind the surface."
As the Philippines fights to shed the remnants of its authoritarian past, organizations are forming to aid journalists and speak out against corruption. These groups strive to bring about change--to increase government transparency, create safe environments for journalists and gain respect for the profession.
Dictatorship to democracy
At a time when the Philippine media banded together to speak out against the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, one female journalist used her talent for writing to express her views of the government to thousands of readers.
Melinda Quintos de Jesus tested the limits of the dictatorship, exposing corruption with her political columns criticizing the regime. To avoid ramifications, …