A national club of cowards

Tue, 11/20/2007 - 00:00

reprinted from Business World November 5 2007

by Vergel Santos

Could there be a greater mockery of freedom than the censorship of a monument to freedom by the very people who owe their existence to freedom?

That, in fact, is what the National Press Club has accomplished, through its treacherous leadership, by altering the mural it commissioned for its headquarters.

For one thing, alterations, however slight or benign or even well intended, are absolutely inexcusable especially in art and such other expressions of conviction. As it happened, the mural, as tampered with, not just softens its all-too-faithful original depiction of the sordid state of present-day affairs but actually misrepresents it, indeed lies about it. It was purged of freedom-fighting characters and messages of protest so decisively that Gloria Arroyo’s regime could only have been pleased. More specifically brazenly, the statement of the International Federation of Journalists protesting news-media repression was painted over – an element that precisely formed “the central image of the mural,” according to the president of the artists’ collective that painted the original. “We were commissioned to visually express press freedom, and these people,” he said, referring to the press club tamperers, “bastardized our work.”

The original mural
One of six alterations hurriedly done by Press Club officers when a guard of President Arroyo allegedly said the painting had "communist" symbols

And what the press club president has to say makes things even worse for himself, his club, and, somehow, the profession he pretends to represent: “We don’t want to be politicized. . . . We don’t want to be associated with the Left or Right.”

That is incredibly ignorant, to say the least – as democracy’s assigned watchdog on the government, the press is necessarily adversarial toward it, thus making it the natural Left, where the government is the natural Right.

In fact, the whole episode is deadly ominous: it aligns the club with the regime, making it an accomplice in repression, therefore an enemy of freedom.

Obviously, here’s where the line is drawn in the profession. The press club deserves to be not merely censured but disowned, and every journalist and every media enterprise have to proclaim where they stand.


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