National Campus Press Freedom Day in the Philippines Date in the current year: July 25, 2024

National Campus Press Freedom Day in the Philippines National Campus Press Freedom Day is observed in the Philippines annually on July 25. It was established by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 to promote, protect and safeguard the right to freedom of speech, expression, and the press in educational institutions.

Student press in the Philippines has a long history. The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), founded in 1931, is the oldest and largest intercollegiate alliance of student publications in the Asia-Pacific region. It unites over 750 student publications from different tertiary schools across the country.

The CEGP was founded by the editors of four college student publications: The Guidon of the Ateneo de Manila University, The National of the National University, The Philippine Collegian of the University of the Philippines, and The Varsitarian of the University of Santo Tomas. Wenceslao Vinzons, who would go on to become a leader of the Philippine resistance against Japanese occupation during WWII, served as the guild’s first president in 1931–1932.

From the very beginning of its existence, the CEGP was a progressive organization that didn’t shy away from political activism. For example, in December 1932, Vinzons and Ernesto Rodriguez Jr. (editor-in-chief of The National) led campus journalists in opposing a bill to increase salaries of members of the House of Representatives.

During the rise of student activism in Philippines that began in the mid-1960s and was suppressed when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the CEGP became a union of student journalists and publications that linked journalism with activism. After the declaration of martial law in 1972, student publications were shut down, but as martial law was lifted in 1981, the CEGP was reconstituted.

Several months after the overthrow of President Joseph Estrada in 2001, the CEGP and several other youth organizations came together to form a youth party to advance the interests of the Filipino youth disillusioned with the new administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Kabaatan party, originally named Ang Nagkakaisang Kabataan Para sa Sambayanan (“The United Youth for the People”), is still active in the political life of the Philippines.

Since its early days, the CEGP has advocated for press freedom in the Philippines. Its activism has led to the organization being “red-tagged” by the government of the Philippines. According to a 2021 publication by The Manila Collegian, Filipino campus journalists are being “systematically attacked through defunding, censorship, harassment, and red-tagging”.

National Campus Press Freedom Day was established in 2019 to celebrate the founding anniversary of the CEGP and advocate for press freedom on campus. Some Filipino student publications, while recognizing that the CEGP deserves to be celebrated, have criticized the observance for being hypocritical since Duterte’s regime was notorious for its pressure on press freedom (as of 2019, the Philippines was the 134th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index complied by Reporters Without Borders).

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National Campus Press Freedom Day in the Philippines, holidays in the Philippines, press freedom, College Editors Guild of the Philippines