Protecting the Prophetic Work of the Press | Sojourners


A group of Filipinos stand together, wearing masks and carrying signs that hold variations on the phrase "Defend Press Freedom"

Filipinos respond following the October 2022 killing of journalist Percival Mabasa (also known as Percy Lapid). At least 22 January 2023 journalists were killed in the Philippines between 2016 and 2022. / Lisa Marie David / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Protecting the Prophetic Work of the Press

A Carmelite priest reflects on the threat to journalists — and press freedom — in the Philippines.
By Ritche T. Salgado

Ritche T. Salgado, OCarm, is director of the Carmelite Center for Social Pastoral Communications in Quezon City, Philippines. He spoke with Sojourners’ Mitchell Atencio.

BEFORE I BECAME a priest, I was a journalist. I was writing for an alternative news outfit, Bulatlat. They asked me to write about a priest who was killed in Central Philippines. I was inspired by [his] story, and I wanted to be a priest. The [Carmelite order] I entered has very strong journalist and media advocacy. In fact, our patron saint in the Philippines, St. Titus Brandsma, is the martyr of press freedom and free speech. I never thought that I’d be in a congregation so involved in the pastoral care of media workers. As a priest, I continue as desk editor for Bulatlat.

Press freedom in the Philippines is very bad. Even today our managing editor was “red-tagged” — [falsely] identified as a member or a supporter of the Communist Party. If we tell the stories of the farmers and Indigenous people whose land is turned into agribusiness plantations or mining sites, does that make us Communists? It’s very dangerous because red-tagging justifies the extrajudicial killing of journalists.

Even after the [People Power] Revolution in 1986, repression continues, especially during the time of Duterte. There were several times [the Carmelites] gave sanctuary to journalists. It’s very appropriate for us as a church because we should be closer to the people, right? We should be able to give them an experience of “salvation” that gives a “breath of life,” as we call it in the Philippines. This is one of the prophetic stands of the Carmelites. The more repressed people are, the more abuses are committed, the more killings that happen, then the more people fight for what is right so that we won’t be silenced.

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Ritche T. Salgado, OCarm, is director of the Carmelite Center for Social Pastoral Communications in Quezon City, Philippines.

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