Bill sets July 25 as ‘National Campus Press Freedom Day’

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A Davao newspaper editor conducts a journalism workshop to students. (Davao Today image)

THE House of Representatives this week approved on second reading House Bill 6024, declaring July 25 of every year as “National Campus Press Freedom Day” in recognition of the historic role and contribution of the campus press to the promotion of press freedom in the country.

The bill provides it is the declared policy of the state to promote, protect and safeguard the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and speech, and of the press.

The bill recognizes that as part of media, the campus press is an important institution in promoting and protecting freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

As a testament to its remarkable contribution in the continued advancement of these freedoms, the bill provides that the state shall, as a matter of policy, promote the observance of July 25 of every year as “National Campus Press Freedom Day.”

The bill mandates all educational institutions in the country to observe July 25 of every year as “National Campus Press Freedom Day.” They shall provide full support and assistance to the preparation of the annual program of activities and events to be conducted by students for its observance.

Rep. Isagani Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna), principal author of the bill, said it was on July 25, 1931 that the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), an alliance of tertiary student publications nationwide, and the largest and oldest of its kind in the Asia-Pacific Region, was founded.

Zarata said July 25 is also the birthday of Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr., founder of the CEGP and former Editor-in-Chief of The National, the campus publication of the National University.

“The CEGP, a patriotic and democratic organization, is the center for the advancement of press freedom in the Philippines. It aims to uphold and defend the interest and welfare of student-journalists, its student-publishers, and the Filipino people,” said Zarate.

The lawmaker said campus journalists who have served with the CEGP continue to pursue the organization’s advocacies even after their years in college.

“Alumni, such as government officials, public servants, civil society leaders and activists, media practitioners, business and industry leaders, and personalities grace the CEGP history’s list of student leaders,” said Zarate.

As part of the alternative press or the so-called “mosquito press” during the dark days of martial law, campus media helped expose the real state of the country during the dictatorship, according to Zarate.

“Today, the campus press continues to defend the interest and welfare of the Filipino people by tackling both national and sectoral issues, providing a free and adequate venue for the discussion of student concerns,” said Zarate.

Other authors of the bill are Reps. Ann Hofer (2nd District, Zamboanga Sibugay) and Manuel Jose Dalipe (2nd District, Zamboanga City), chairperson and vice chairperson, respectively of the committee on higher and technical education which endorsed the bill, and Rep. Ben Evardone (Lone District, Eastern Samar), chairman of the committee on banks and financial intermediaries.