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Attack on Press Freedom or Just Being Legal? Local Media Practitioners Speak

Ray Chen S. Bahinting | Editor-in-Chief

The Weekly Sillimanian asked some local media practitioners, a campus publication and some academicians about their thoughts on the revocation by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the registration of the online media company Rappler.

We asked these questions:

  1. What are your thoughts about the issue?
  2. Do you think that is an attack on press freedom?
  3. How important is press freedom?

Ely Dejaresco, Editor-in-Chief, The Negros Chronicle:

1. It is a curtailment of the Freedom of the Press.
2. Press freedom is everything because it is democracy.

Mike Ramo, DJ, Energy FM, Dumaguete

1. SEC’s mandate is to check on the incorporation of companies. Constitution says mass media should be 100% noypi owned. Rappler has Omidyar Network, a foreign media, as an incorporator. So it violated that part of the constitution.
2. Not at all. Why? Rappler continues to publish. And anyone can publish.
3. Press Freedom is very, very important. Unfortunately, press is not that free because some practitioners are under someone’s payroll.

Raffy Cabristante, DJ, Yes FM Dumaguete

1. It surely is saddening because another media entity doing its job to inform the public has been ordered to close. The good thing about it, though, is that it goes to show that journalists are brave and they will stand their ground when their function is threatened. I applaud Maria Ressa and the rest of the Rappler team (some of whom are very good friends of mine) for their bravery and resolve.
2. In a way, yes. But I think the main issue here is the alleged discrepancies in the way they are owned and managed. I just hope the folks at Rappler will be able to clear things out in the proper forum, which I think is what they’re doing right now.
3. For a democracy like ours to thrive, it must have a free press that holds the government accountable to its people. A free press keeps the public informed, so the latter can make informed opinions or decisions, positive or negative.

The NORSUNIAN, the official campus publication of Negros Oriental State University (Dumaguete Campus)

1. With the thought of SEC’s revocation of Rappler, whose aim is to speak the truth for the people, freedom of the press directly hindered; but we should also take note that we are in a country wherein we should abide by the rules granted by the 1987 Constitution. Although the press is given its freedom as per Article III, Section 4 of the constitution, if it is a business entity, then it should follow the regulations for it to perform its activities. But we, nevertheless, desire for the truth and nothing but the truth since we do not claim to know anyone from Rappler, or from any of the concerned parties of the issue.
2. Since SEC has its grounds as to why it had to revoke Rappler’s registration, we do not think of it really as an attack. As we have mentioned [from our first answer], the press is intended to have freedom, but if it is a business entity, then it shall abide by the rules of SEC. And if Rappler really is a hundred percent Filipino-owned and is simply stating the truth, then there is no reason for its staff and other members to think that it is being attacked. We are a democratic country, after all. Inspections are essential for regulation and order.
3. Press freedom is very much important, especially to us [members of the press] because if not, then it shouldn’t have been granted in our constitution. Press freedom is equal to accessing the truth deserved by the Filipino citizens. And since the press is granted with that freedom, its members should learn to maximize it without being biased to a particular party in a particular issue; but biased to a truth.

SU Assistant Professor Dr. Maria Cecilia M. Genove, Editorin-Chief, Island News

1. This maybe a very unpopular thought because I teach mass communication, but we have to abide by what is embodied in the Constitution and the Constitution says that although there is a freedom of expression relegated to everybody, all forms of media in particular, but it has to have 100 percent Filipino ownership. So in other words, Rappler, although their intentions are very good, they maybe the most innovative media platform today because isn’t it that they are digital, they gone through great lengths, online and so on,but they have violated, according to the SEC.
2. I don’t think it is. I think very much that democracy is very much alive and well. Members of media, the press, all platforms of mass media, we are still as free as ever here in the Philippines. No, there is no attack at all on Philippine mass media. But if I have to say this, again, we have to abide by what is in the constitution. Today perhaps, many among those who are members of media may probably have abused their so-called freedom of expression. Today, if we are analytical with how media cover various personalities, I can see a polarization gyud. There are members of media who have become political which is very sad.

Melita Aguilar, Officer-in-charge, SU College of Mass Communication

1. The first reaction I had when I read about it was, why did it take SEC three years to decide that they would want to revoke the registration of Rappler, when in fact, they applied for a registration in 2015. But further readings told me that they were still in the process of making a decision as to whatever it was.
2. In a way, yes. Why? Because of the animosity, I may call it animosity, between Rappler and Malacañang especially on the President. It shows in the several press conferences that the President, for example, acted that way he acted in a press conference. Never in my life did I experience that a press con turned out the way it went the time when Pia Ranada was there (referring to the viral video earlier this month where President Duterte hurled angry replies to questions from Rappler writer, Pia Ranada). As a news source or as a person of authority, to say something about an issue, the best thing, for me, that he could have done was just give the statement as it is or as he wanted it to sound but not single out somebody in the audience and, if I may use the word, ostracize.
3. [Mass] media [are] always considered the fourth estate. So, the media are the watchdog. If there is curtailment, how can it function as it should be? As somebody from the academe, we always inculcate in the minds of our communication students to be balanced, to be accurate. Never forget that you also have your responsibility when you write your story. You are there to tell a story, you are there not to criticize unless it is a commentary. But if it’s a straight news article you are writing, you are there to give accurate information. In communication—accuracy, accuracy, accuracy equals journalism.

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