Carvajal Biased reply

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Friday, May 23, 2014


Reviving the Right-to-Reply (RTR) bill is to overlook the big picture. Proponents see only the inset where they allege that media falsely accuses them of wrongdoing. The big picture they refuse to see is of the whole nation being kept in the dark about government transactions that, like the PDAF, are suspect and shadowy.

This fundamental lack of transparency in government forces media to their own devices in the search for truth. Only narrow minds clamor for the right to reply because they can only see false or biased reporting as the problem. Only elitist minds insinuate, as they do with the RTR bill, that their press releases are closer to the truth than media reports.

While there might admittedly be biased reports (journalists are no angels), nevertheless there is no guarantee that the rebuttals of public officials (who are no angels either) will not be equally false or biased.It would still be their word against media’s. In the absence of a Freedom of Information (FOI) law, citizens cannot be blamed if they look to the professional and responsible in media (and there are many) for some light on the truth.

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The credibility gap between media and politicians is rooted in the latter’s refusal to be transparent in office. Without an FOI law, the divide just widens because there is no legal standard of truth that can mediate between what politicians claim are biased media reports and what media claims are self-serving politicians’ replies.

An RTR law will be an imposition on media and a curtailment of the rightof free expression. The media war could drag on for days, months, years and kill media’s business. And for what, when there is no guarantee the politician’s reply is not even
more biased than media’s report?

Like, who is responsible for the proliferation of lists of pork barrel scammers? Certainly not the media who stand to gain nothing from the ensuing confusion. The lists actually just confuse media, as well as everybody, and make the former’s work more difficult to do.

More likely suspects are politicians because it is they who will surely benefit from the disinformation. The resulting confusion would take time and a lot of hard analyzing to resolve. Consequently, resolution of the issue will be delayed, giving politicians time to disappear into the legal, extra-legal and maybe even immoral woodwork.

First things first. An FOI law would go a long way in settling the conflict between media and politicians. With an FOI law the right to reply is no longer needed. Without it the reply of politicians can just as easily be false. The last thing we want is for truth to be lodged between media’s (biased?) reports and politicians’ (equally or even more biased?) replies.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 24, 2014.

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