Pangan: A strong slap at press freedom

At Close Range

THE recent conviction of Rappler Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maria Ressa and researcher-writer Reynaldo Reyes, Jr., is definitely a rebuke and slap at press freedom.

It was meant to silence us journalists and warn us not to run counter against the accusations and activities of powerful and moneyed individuals and that of government.

It is meant to gag us, not to speak the truth on any anomaly and malfeasance of said individuals and the government.

The conviction of Ressa,, of cyber libel brings out a chilling effect on our being. The implied instruction to all bona fide journalists is to stop criticizing, or else...

The Constitutional provision on respecting the press freedom becomes weak and unprotective when it is ignored or altogether obliterated in favor of privileged individuals. What may be stated on paper is so different from realities on the ground. It is just kept quiet, or else.

There have been efforts some time ago to decriminalize libel and, by extension, cyber libel from our criminal statutes but the idea fizzled out due to some heavy pressure from some government officials and powerful and influential people.

Now, libel is the easiest weapon of richly-connected people against bona fide journalists. I believe it is easy to file it but very hard to ease out of it. Some writers say once you are charged with libel once, twice or several times, you are made as a writer or columnist. I do not agree with this statement though.

Press freedom should be upheld in accordance with the Constitution, which is not just a piece of paper or a mouthpiece. No, more than being a piece of paper, it was consecrated on hallowed grounds and many lives were offered or sacrificed to uphold its presence in our history as a people.

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And so ends the journey of Rappler in its pursuit of truth and fairness. It just received a big blow to its mission. What will happen next to Rappler, with a slew of more cases aimed at it? Will it fold up in defeat and self-pity? Will the cases filed against its CEO and writer, asking substantial damages bankrupt it financially?

World media should run to the rescue of Rappler and its people. It was brave enough to expose some things which it deemed irregular!


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