JOURNALIST Raissa Robles is soft-spoken. That was my impression of her when we met yesterday during the “Reaching Out to Journalists” forum, which was among the activities of Cebu Press Freedom Week 2014. She spoke on “The News Commentary” before mass communication students in Cebu.
I stumbled into her blog, “Raissa Robles: Inside Philippine Politics and Beyond” (raissarobles.com) at the height of the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona. I used the info posted in that blog in some of my columns. Sun.Star Cebu and the University of San Carlos, which organized the forum with the support of Smart Communications, therefore chose the right speaker.
Robles is Manila correspondent of the South China morning Post and Radio Netherlands.
But her busy schedule does not prevent her from making her blog stand out for its well-researched and insightful posts. I also admire the way she manages the comment section of her blog.
After my negative experience with some virulent “commenters” in the Sun.Star Cebu website where my columns are posted, I thought the better option was to forego with the comments section altogether. But Raissa successfully raised the level of exchange in her blog, such that one could actually get additional information and insights from these “commenters.” She called that particular section “Cyber Plaza Miranda.”
Raissa, in short, proved that blogs can be a forum for objective dissection of issues and concerns involving politics and governance. The key is holding on to the values espoused by traditional media like, to quote BBC, “truth and accuracy, impartiality, accountability, public interest and independence.”
One of the casualties of the declaration of military rule on Sept. 21, 1972 was the Philippine media. Most media outlets were closed and those that remained or surfaced were either controlled or practiced self-censorship for fear of Ferdinand Marcos and his minions. That situation remained for years until the early ‘80s when an independent media, or the so-called “mosquito press,” found their voice and gained large following.
Under that circumstance, the push was mainly for an unfettered press. The call was rightly for the freedom to communicate without interference from the state. That effort, though, was connected with the overall struggle to defeat the tyranny of the Marcos regime and expand the country’s democratic space.
But the Marcos dictatorship has long been gone, ousted by People Power in 1986, and presidents have come and gone. For almost three decades, the practice of journalism has been freed from the hold of a tyrannical government. In this sense, press freedom is now mainly being celebrated and not being fought for.
In an era of unfettered press, the bigger threat is not from the state but from the media practitioners themselves. With media freedom is the other side of the coin: responsibility. A responsible media serves the ends of democracy; an irresponsible media could destroy it.
This is the same thinking that guided me when I viewed that incident in the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, Quezon City wherein Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was attacked by a group of students protesting the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Responsibility must accompany the use of our freedoms or tyrants will be given the reason to deprive us of them.
For proof, one can look no further than Thailand, where a supposed “political turmoil” gave the military the pretext to take over.