3 years on: Groups reignite call to release Tacloban journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio
MANILA, Philippines — Advocacy groups are calling for the release of Frenchie Mae Cumpio, a Tacloban-based journalist, who has been detained for three years on charges of illegal possession of guns and explosives.
In a joint statement released by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, AlterMidya, and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines on Tuesday, members have called for an end to the three-year “unjust detention” of Cumpio.
Cumpio, who had turned 24 on Jan. 23, was among the progressives in the so-called “Tacloban 5″ arrested on Feb. 7, 2020, in an Eastern Vista staff house in Tacloban City, Leyte, following a string of raids in what the military claimed were “identified Communist Terrorist Group safe houses.”
Also arrested were human-rights activists Marielle Domequil, Alexander Philip Abinguna, Marissa Cabaljo, and Mira Legion.
READ: Journalist, 4 rights activists arrested in Tacloban raids
“Frenchie Mae’s arrest and continued detention demonstrate the persistent attacks against independent journalists in the country. The attacks are aimed at intimidating and silencing those who are critical in their reportage,” they said.
The groups also cited a court decision that barred Cumpio and Domequil from taking part in the proceedings, because they failed to respond to the petition for civil forfeiture.
“But this was due to difficulties brought about by their detention and pandemic restrictions. Therefore, while the decision is under appeal, we stand in solidarity in her plea to present evidence in court and wield her only weapon which is the truth,” they pointed out.
Cumpio is a beacon of truth in Eastern Visayas, unearthing human rights violations and giving voice to the unheard stories of marginalized communities, according to local advocacy groups.
“These stories and the pursuit of truth should not be [a] reason to silence journalists like Frenchie Mae. We call on the Philippine government to drop all the charges against Frenchie Mae and the rest of ‘Tacloban 5,’” they stressed.
Joint StatementFebruary 7, 2023Free Frenchie Mae Cumpio: Three years of unjust detention is enough For the past…
Posted by National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Monday, February 6, 2023
The Gabriela Women’s Party also joined the chorus of calls to release Cumpio and the rest of the “Tacloban 5.”
“Today marks the third anniversary of Cumpio’s arrest–a reminder of the state’s intolerance against women journalists who dedicate their lives to providing accessible and truthful reportage amid the proliferation of state-backed disinformation [machinery],” they said in a separate statement.
The women’s party then underscored the need to “vigorously uphold” press freedom and freedom of expression in the country, especially under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which, they said, “actively promotes disinformation and suppression of free speech.”
Challenging year for journos
The fight for press freedom has never been harder. Unfortunately, according to international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, the situation for journalists across the globe has only been deteriorating — with 530 journalists detained and 57 killed in their line of duty in 2022 alone.
What’s more, the report revealed a worrying statistic: women accounted for 14.6 percent of imprisoned journalists worldwide — a dramatic increase from the figure five years ago, when only seven in every 100 imprisoned journalists were female. The trend of female journalists facing detention and even death while doing their jobs shows that the struggle for press freedom is far from over.
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