Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dialogues for Press Freedom

The dialogues for press freedom are actually dialogues where one question is being answered by many questions. I never knew anything about it until I found myself in its midst. Now, it suddenly dawned on me that they're not dialogues at all but a raging debate desperately begging for action. Chancing upon broadcaster Dodong Solis, the manager of Davao's dxdc radio station, one Saturday afternoon, I had one brief moment of illumination.

If you don't want libel classified as a crime---in other words, you want it 'de-criminalized'--- how will you protect anyone from the abuses of the press?”
“Which type of abuse has a much greater impact on our democracy, Plata, the abuse of 'freedom of the press' that you are talking about? Or, the abuses of those in power? Which type of abuse can affect the great number of people? Would you rather curtail a broadcaster’s freedom to report on something just because this can be a potential for abuse? Who will speak up against the abuse of power if journalists are constantly under threat of libel? Whose interest is being sacrificed when a journalist is stopped from reporting the truth? Whose interest is sacrificed when we curtail the freedom of the press? Is it the interest of journalists, as individuals? Or, is it the interest of the people who are kept in the dark on what is going on in different branches of our government? Whose interest is sacrificed if a journalist is stopped from reporting a story? Is it the interest of journalist as an individual? Or is it the interest of the people’s right to know? If you say, that libel has indeed served to protect the people against the abuses of the press, how often has this law been used by those in power to stifle criticisms and legitimate dissent? Will you please count the number of libel cases existing in the Philippine Courts today, Plata, to find out how many of them were filed by abusive politicians who have all the money and the clout to harass the press? Would you rather leave to other institutions and sectors the job of policing our ranks, Plata? Do we lack the capacity to police our ranks, ourselves? Are you really that irresponsible, Plata? How can the press fulfill its Constitutional duty to be a watchdog of democracy--to guard democracy against the potential abuses by the powers-that-be---if a law has also been installed in our midst to stop us from doing our duty? Please answer me, Plata. Your answer means so much to me.

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