The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is saddened and appalled by the defacement of the press freedom mural commissioned from the Neo-Angono Artists Collective by the National Press Club.

Absolutely nothing can justify the indignity done to a work of art that, ironically, seeks to honor the Philippine media’s struggle for press freedom, a struggle, we would like to stress, that is far from over.

The alterations on the mural were not only an aesthetic outrage, they constituted censorship, an act that should have been anathema to any media organization worth its salt, and made worse by the fact that the message that was censored was one against censorship itself.

The explanations of the Club’s officers have only served to bolster suspicions that the defacing of the press freedom mural was meant to please the guest of honor at its unveiling, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

We can see how unveiling the mural would have been a rebuke to a president under whose watch the most number of journalists have been murdered – 53 at last count.

However, to the National Press Club and other colleagues in media, these we have to ask:

When you say the NPC must be “apolitical”, isn’t this denying the historical fact that the freedom to write the truth was won through political struggles that included media and journalists? That during times of intense political crisis, journalists have taken up the cudgel and fought for the freedom to report the truth?

When you erased the statement of the International Federation of Journalists on the dangers the anti-terrorism law posed to press freedom, the alibata K– a fighting symbol – from the arm of a revolutionary leader, or the NUJP from the banners of protesting media organizations; or when you changed the headline on the abduction of Joe Burgos' son and the faces of Randy David and Juan Mercado, was the outcome a more accurate picture of press freedom in the country?

Sadly, this we have to say: Ordering the alterations is akin to rewriting a critical yet accurate report to avoid incurring the ire of the powers-that-be or appease a patron. And we, in the media community, know by what word such an act is known by. It is definitely not truth or ethics.

Joe Torres Jr., chairperson
Rowena Paraan, secretary-general

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