First WOMEN-onlY safety training for journalists and media workers held in the Philippines

By Anne Marxze D. Umil

Everything was still vivid for Margarita Valle, a veteran journalist based in Mindanao, southern part of the Philippines. She was still emotional as she recalls her arbitrary detention on June 9, 2019 in Laguindingan Airport, Cagayan de Oro.

She was ordering food while waiting for her flight back home in Davao when seven or eight men in civilian clothing served her a warrant of arrest that is named after Elsa Renton alias Tina Maglaya and Fidelina Margarita Valle for arson and multiple murder with quadruple frustrated murder and damage to government property.

The arresting officers refused to let her read the warrant and prohibited her from contacting her lawyer. Her phones were also confiscated after contacting her friends about her arrest. She was held incommunicado for 17 hours.

The CIDG released her after a witness said that she is not the suspect who is subjected to the warrant. The Philippine National Police admitted that hers was a case of “mistaken identity.” But the damage has been done.

In the Philippines, many women journalists are being subjected to different forms of attacks especially under the current administration of President Duterte who undermines the crucial role of the media as well as women, in the society.

Women journalists do not only face arbitrary arrest like Valle, they were also vilified and harassed online and offline.

Thus, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and International Media Support (IMS) in partnership with International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) organized a safety training for women journalists held on June 28 to 30 in Baras, Rizal.

The safety training for women journalists is part of Safeguarding Press Freedom in the Philippines, a media development project co-founded by the European Union and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

This is the first safety training that is focused on women journalists in the Philippines. The training was attended not only by women media practitioners across the country but also by members of the academe specializing in communications with the latter’s objective to incorporate the lectures on safety to their curriculum.

The training discussed the safety situation for media in the Philippines as a background context for conducting training that is focused on women here.

The training was held in Baras, Rizal in the Philippines on June 28 to 30.

According to the AIJC, the training “seeks to safeguard and strengthen media and enhance the enabling environment for the exercise of press freedom in the Philippines, which remains one of the most unsafe places for journalists.”

In the Philippines, there are 80 journalists killed from 1992 to 2019, based on the Committee to Protect Journalists data.

Under President Duterte, the Freedom for Media, Freedom for all Network have monitored at least 128 threats and attacks against members of the press.

Among the topics were gender and safety, preparing for coverage, introduction to basic life support, weapon awareness, personal conflict management, vehicle safety and checkpoints, surviving abduction, personal safety and self-defense, digital security and dealing with trauma.

Henry Young of Krav Maga Philippines facilitated the training in self-defense giving basic skills and practical tips on what to do when in danger.

Henry Young of Krav Maga Philippines demonstrating self-defense skills. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil)

There are also simulations to apply the tips on emergency response and other situations during coverage.

Simulation exercise on Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil)
Simulation exercise on emergency response. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil)

Other resource persons in training are Rowena Caranza Paraan of ABS-CBN and former National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) National Chairperson and Safety Officer,

IAWRT Philippines Treasurer and Bulatlat.com editor Len Olea,

NUJP National Director and Davao Today reporter Kath Cortez,

and IAWRT Philippines Vice President and Miriam College Department of Communication chair Lynda Garcia.

“This training also aims to instill practical tips that you can apply when you are on the field,” said Cortez.

There are at least 29 participants in the training, 16 of which are members of IAWRT including Cortez and IAWRT-Philippines president Jola Diones-Mamangun. In the end, there are eight women journalists and professors who filed their membership in IAWRT.

The next safety training for women journalists will be held in September.

Members of IAWRT-Philippines chapter who participated in the training.

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