Campus journalists assert press freedom at nat’l fellowship 

The 15th The Spectrum Fellowship participants* 

Defend the fortress of the free press. 

This was the unified call of student journalists from across the Philippines during the 15th The Spectrum Fellowship and 9th Campus Press Awards—a nationwide campus journalism event grounded on asserting the influence and duty of journalists in today’s age of disinformation —organized by The Spectrum, the official student media corps of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod, 7 at the Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City, June 4-7. 

Themed, “Sentinel: Fortress of the Free Press”, the fellowship returned after a five-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, convening 16 publications and 11 resource speakers from all around the country, connecting them through a series of discussions on highly-specialized journalism topics, team-building activities, and network formation among delegates to spark meaningful dialogue and challenge perspectives on critical societal issues, a press release saod. 

Some of the notable media practitioners and individuals who graced the four-day event included veteran journalist and former Rappler Head of Regions Inday Espina-Varona, House of Representatives Member for Kabataan Partylist . Raoul Danniel Manuel, PITIK BULAG editorial cartoonist and illustrator Cartoonist ZACH, as well as freelance photographer and former Philippine Daily Inquirer photojournalist Raffy Lerma. 

 Altermidya – People’s Alternative Media Network National Coordinator Avon Ang, independent journalist and author Kenneth Roland Guda, College Editors Guild of the Philippines National Spokesperson Brell Lacerna, and Palanca awardee and humorist Jade Mark Capiñanes also were among the  speakers. 

Local figures who were also present during the Fellowship included developmental communicator and Negros Weekly columnist Keith Brandon Cari-an, Sine Negrense Best Director awardee and La Salle Film Society Artistic Director Julius De la Peña, and climate activist Kyle Anne Villariza. 

The speakers headed the plenary and parallel discussions on various topics like community and advocacy journalism, deconstructing journalistic neutrality, campus journalism in the age of artificial intelligence, freedom of expression and press freedom rights, publication management and media security, fundamentals of field reporting, documentary and filmmaking, and other niche subjects. 

“If there is any service that a journalist can give to their communities, it is by telling people how and why things are happening. […] If you do not remind people in this age of distraction and very small attention spans, we will all fall to the lies of the powers that be,” Espina-Varona remarked in her plenary talk on the significance of context in journalistic reporting. 

During the Fellowship Night, a candle-lighting and community singing ceremony took place as a tribute for media martyrs throughout the world, on top of collective calls to cease the genocide in Palestine, end all forms of red-tagging and censorship, and release Frenchie Mae Cumpio, a Filipino community journalist under detention since 2020 due to trumped-up charges, whose cases were recommended by United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan to be put under swift trial or dismissal. 

The Campus Press Awards recognized exemplary outputs from participating publications under the following categories: Best Newspaper and Best Newspaper Layout for The Central Echo of the Central Philippine University; Best Magazine, Best Magazine Layout, and Best Editorial for The Benildean of the De La Salle – College of St. Benilde; Best Literary Folio for Phoenix of the Lyceum of the Philippines University; and Best Facebook Page for Ad Astra of the De La Salle – College of St. Benilde. 

The Dolphin’s Editor-in-Chief Francis Baldemor from John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University – Arevalo, Inc. was also hailed as the Campus Journalist of the Year based on their portfolio, journalistic experiences, involvement in school and community activities, and personal advocacy as a student journalist. 

“Being a journalist is not always about writing, editing, or speaking. It’s about taking responsibility—for whatever you say or write may either make or break society,” Baldemor said in  his acceptance speech. 

Other delegate publications included The College Voice of La Carlota City College, FORWARD Publications of the University of San Jose – Recoletos, The Hillside Echo of Filamer Christian University, The Northern Forum of the State University of Northern Negros, Tingog of La Salle University – Ozamiz City, Tolentine Star of the University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos, The Weekly Sillimanian of Silliman University, as well as The Nightingale, Sidlak, Tigris, and The Tycoon of the University of St. La Salle.*PR 

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