THE Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines recently held a film screening of the documentary Radio Silence by Swiss-based director Juliana Fanjul.
A panel discussion on free media being vital to democracies followed, as Switzerland was cited as being a prime example of democratic values.
The event was part of the Human Rights Film Tour organized by the Geneva-based International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, as well as the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
In his speech, Ambassador Alain Gaschen noted transparency and accountability as core principles of democracy: “With democracies, it is important that the general public is not just aware, but also well-informed about those in power and the activities of governing institutions. The media is in the perfect position to achieve this…It is important that they are not threatened for merely executing their duty and responsibilities.”
Gaschen added that there still is more work that needs to be done: “We are confident that multisector collaboration is essential for us to create an environment where press freedom can thrive.”
Radio Silence tells the story of Carmen Aristegui, a Mexican journalist who faced censorship, threats and other forms of intimidation following her continued criticism of state institutions and leadership. She was abruptly fired from the radio station where she hosted a daily program.
Aristegui then opted instead to establish her own online platform to continue exercising her role as a journalist.
According to the Swiss Embassy, her story parallels that of Filipina journalist Maria Ressa: the first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize winner who continues to face numerous cases and threats due to the work of her online media outlet Rappler.
The state of press freedom was then discussed by members of the media and advocates, with the forum moderated by former Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit from the Commission on Human Rights. The panel included Rappler cofounder Chay Hofilena, news anchor Christian Esguerra, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair Jonathan de Santos and United Nations-Philippines’s senior human rights adviser Signe Poulsen.