Iloilo is a charming city with a vibrant media and lots of developments happening, said by Her Excellency Annika Thunborg, the Swedish Ambassador to the Philippines, on the sidelines of the culminating program of the International Training Programme (ITP) for Media, Asia Regional Alumni and Stakeholder Meeting in Manila, held October 6–8, 2023.
It was a quick but memorable chat with the equally charming, sweet and soft spoken, Ambassador Annika Thunborg whose eyes brightened upon learning that the event had representatives from Iloilo.
During the conversation, Ambassador Thunborg commended Iloilo City’s local governance, efforts for inclusivity, and projects on sustainable mobility. She mentioned Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas’ leadership behind the efforts, stressing that she looks forward to the realization of Iloilo’s development aspirations.
She also expressed a shared desire for the success of the newly formed Iloilo Media Citizen Council between Francis Allan Angelo, interim chairperson of IMCC and the editor-in-chief of the Western Visayas Daily Guardian, and me.
Another Ilonggo leader who also attended the event was lawyer Abdiel Dan “Ade” S. Fajardo, whose family is behind the establishment of another print media institution in the region, Panay News, and also a founding member of the IMCC. He represented the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, having served as the former national president of the IBP.
In her welcome message, Ambassador Thunborg emphasized the role of human rights in upholding democracy, the significance of media freedom to society’s development and progress, and the important function of Media Citizen Councils.
We are witnessing the shrinking space for civil society and democracy in many countries; hence, the alumni and stakeholder meeting in Manila is timely, said Thunborg.
“Human rights defenders and journalists, and other media workers, are being intimidated, harassed, and subjected to violence for voicing information and opinions that are deemed undesirable by governments and the powers that be,” she said, and that is without exception to the Swedish media, whose journalists also faced online threats and harassments in the last three years.
Ambassador Thunborg shared that almost one in five reporters revealed being a victim of threats, and 40 percent of journalists who received threats claimed that it deterred them from covering certain topics.
It shows how important it is to have strong laws and institutions, Thunborg said, underscoring two important points about the essentiality of free, independent, and objective media in a democratic society. First, it provides the information which people need to make responsible and informed decisions, and second, it serves to keep the checks and balances in government and ensure that elected officials uphold their oaths of office and their roles as public servants.
The formation of media citizen councils can be a great tool in increasing political participation of diverse voices in society and helping the general public have a renewed trust in the media, she said, emphasizing that a vibrant civil society and independent media contribute valuable insights and constructive critique, perspectives, and recommendations.
Today, we live in challenging times and must do our utmost to uphold the national laws and institutions that we have jointly created and designed and that have served us in creating a freer, more prosperous, more equal society, with less hunger and less fear,” said Thunborg.
Sweden became the first country in the world to adopt a Press Freedom Law in 1766. Freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom to demonstrate are constitutional rights of Swedish citizens and have been important pillars of Sweden’s development as an open and prosperous society.
“Sweden is and will continue to be a strong voice that stands at, for, and in defense of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law throughout our foreign policy,” said Ambassador Annika Thunborg.
The International Training Programme (ITP) for Media Asia Regional Alumni and Stakeholder Meeting was organized Niras, Fojo Media Institute, International Media Support, and Global Reporting Initiative. The ITP gathers journalists from Asia and capacitates them towards efficient and sustainable planning and implementation of media self-regulation.