Don’t shoot the messenger, Mr. President

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Don’t shoot the messenger, Mr. President

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cartoon editorialA PPI Statement

The Philippine Press Institute (PPI) urgently calls on the incoming administration to commit itself in no uncertain terms to protecting journalists and other media workers in the country and thus uphold the constitutionally enshrined freedom of the press.

The country’s national association of newspapers, which has existed since 1964, issued the call in the wake of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s recent pronouncement insinuating that corrupt journalists deserved to be killed.

Such a statement clearly goes against the grain of the statutory protection of the freedom of the press to report without fear of reprisal.

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PPI has time and again voiced its position on the unabated journalist  killings in the country, now dubbed the second most dangerous place for the media, next only to strife-torn Iraq.

The battlecry, “Stop media killings and end impunity,” could not be more apt, particularly against the backdrop of Duterte’s alarming comments about the press.

The growing number of slain journalists, and media workers that have suffered various forms of attacks and harassment, has set off alarm bells not only across the country but also globally.

The incoming president’s disturbing remarks do nothing to counter the spate of media attacks in the country. On the contrary,  they tend to foster the brazen sense of impunity behind the alarming rise of journalist deaths in the Philippines.

No one denies the existence of corruption within the ranks of the media. However, citing it as a deplorable reality in journalism practice is one thing, but using it as a justification for murdering or attacking journalists is absolutely another.

Political realities in the Philippines are such that the media must often assume an adversarial function in their pursuit of truth — truth that serves the interest of the public. Many do so well aware of the dangers they are courting if they so much as incur the ire of the powers that be.

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As trite as this creed may sound, it is the duty of the press to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This is the lofty ideal that many, non-corrupt, members of the media still aspire to. Would that the incoming president were more mindful of this reality.

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Media extortionists and blackmailers certainly have no place in an otherwise noble profession in which high ethical standards are the norm. Yet equally abhorrent are politicians and members of the business community and other sectors of society who think nothing of bribing reporters and editors in exchange for favors. But while accepting or giving ‘envelopes’ is grossly unethical, does it make it a deathly proposition?

In a country that still considers itself a democracy, where the rule of law is expected to remain paramount under Duterte’s watch, extrajudicial killings — whether of media people or anyone for that matter — must not be condoned under any circumstances.

The President-elect would have done well to express alarm over the fact that to date only 15 out of more than 170 recorded cases of journalists killed have been solved — none of whom were known to be on the take.

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Surely it is not too much to expect that the newly elected president direct his anger toward the unsolved media murders, and his efforts toward bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

Until then the cloud of impunity in the senseless and unlawful killings of journalists will continue to hover over this country, notwithstanding the winds of change Duterte had promised during the campaign.

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For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

THE FREEDOM TO DISAGREE

AT THE HEIGHT OF MARTIAL LAW,  the people called the popular but pro-dictator newspaper “The Daily Express” as “The Daily Suppress” and the every four weeks Malacanang Newspaper as “Imelda’s Monthly” (snicker).

The people bought “The Daily Express” to read the entertainment and sports news and used page one and editorial pages as wrapper for market fish. That kind of disdain.

That’s what happens when there is virulent “state control” of the mind to think freely. To have a monolithic philosophy rather than let a thousand political thoughts bloom.

President-elect Duterte,  allegedly  (according to him) enjoying his last days of his Rodyness/rudeness (take your pick)-says many journalists deserve to be killed because they were corrupt and biased. That’s a  clear nerve reaction of one predisposed to restore the death penalty.

With a difference. Death penalty presupposes there was a court proceeding before conviction by death. But summarily killing those “types” of journalists is taking the law into one’s hands. That is criminal.

Admittedly, the journalists ranks need purging.

The Duterte camp describes three types of  journalists: (1) those who operate straight and purvey the truth and balanced opinion (2) those who are in the payroll of politicians and mighty men to pander to their interests and slam their enemies (“payroll ” sometimes comes in the form of non-cash business /position opportunities or settling of cases) and (3) those AC/DC (Attack Collect and defend/Collect or the mercenary type whose god is Money.

But the  proper way to straighten them is not  via a 45 caliber pistol but  through libel -a criminal offense-a situation not devoutly to be wished. There are resident ombudsmen in newspapers, as well.

Besides , there is public opinion. A writer or speaker on the take will  soon lose credence of his audience and will graduate into a raging wacko with zero credibility. Thus eventually becoming powerless.

President Duterte’s statements could dangerously  embolden those whose wicked ways are threatened by  media exposes to kill media men.

We are supposed to be a nation of laws. Now if every fisherman, farmer, worker, lawyer, doctor, police or  even a public official- like Duterte- when perceived to be corrupt or biased- can Juan de la Cruz  now just  buy a gun and shoot him?

Then we will become a nation ruled by guns. Where he who has the guns rule. That is a recipe for a National Mayhem.

Yes, we cherish the freedom to “change”  but we will  indeed resist the march from freedom to “chains” with all our might.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

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