UN Special Rapporteur visits jailed Filipino journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio

(Photo from UN Sr Ms. Irene Khan’s post: https://twitter.com/Irenekhan/status/1751316283390583246)

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) welcomes the visit of UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Ms. Irene Khan to our Philippine chapter member Frenchie Mae Cumpio today in Tacloban City Jail.

Eastern Vista editor-in-chief Frenchie was arrested on February 7, 2020 in a police pre-dawn raid in her media outfit’s staff house after the police alleged that firearms and explosives were found in their possession. Days before her arrest, she experienced red-tagging and surveillance. Her arrest would become the start of a pattern of red-tagging followed by raids and arrests of journalists that year, as two other IAWRT Philippines members, Anne Krueger and Lady Ann Salem, would suffer the same fate. Krueger is out on bail on the original charges against her while the government appealed the dismissal of charges against Salem, now pending at the Supreme Court.

Frenchie turned 25 a few days before Ms. Khan’s visit and she has now spent almost four years of her youth in jail on trumped-up charges and continued political persecution. After the illegal possession charges, additional trumped-up charges that intend to prolong her incarceration have been slapped against her.

Aside from Cumpio, Ms. Khan met with Marielle Domequil and Alexander Philip Abinguna, two human rights defenders arrested with Frenchie who are also still in jail. SR Khan also met with their legal counsels and with CSOs in the region, one of the poorest in the country. Reports of red-tagging and the online and physical surveillance or attacks that follow are common complaints. These continue to be a scourge that impinges on freedom of belief, association, opinion and expression.

IAWRT Acting President Jola Diones-Mamangun flew to Tacloban with fellow IAWRT members and met Frenchie’s mother Rexly and Marielle’s mother Marieta and invited them to take part in the Butterfly Campaign for Women in Media of IAWRT Philippines.

The campaign, launched coinciding with SR Khan’s visit, is meant to shed light on the situation of women journalists who suffer from state repression, as well as others who are made vulnerable to sexual harassment and other forms of attacks on women journalists. 

In the coming months, IAWRT aims to continue to bring these issues to a global platform. IAWRT has consultative status with ECOSOC and participates yearly at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held coinciding with International Women’s Day. The Philippines will chair CSW this year and we aim to bring here our call for the release of Frenchie and for the betterment of the plight of women in media in the world.