• Media ethics and government sensitivities



    United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was summoned to Malacañang recently to explain a “US Intelligence Community” report that cited President Duterte in a portion that discussed “threats” to Southeast Asian democracy.

    Denials forthcoming but not apologies of course.

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    The principal suspect in the killing of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait is now in the
    custody of authorities in Lebanon, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Friday.
    No, I think that Kuwait will not “freeze” the investigation for one year.

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    Ricky Vargas elected new PH Olympic Committee president. The former head should have long done a voluntarily exit.

    * * *
    Garin files libel case vs Ubial, health officials over Dengvaxia.

    Other respondents were former Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Dr. Ted Herbosa, health advocate Dr. Tony Leachon, and Ubial’s consultant Dr. Francis Cruz.

    This legal action is much like the street sign that says “detour.”

    * * *

    Sereno on impeachment case: “Narratives built on lies will eventually crumble.’’ Are we to interpret that almost all of her fellows in the judicial realm are “liars” and that she is the only one telling the truth?

    * * *

    Dunkin Donuts owner slapped with tax evasion.

    I hope it will not be passed on to the price of my sinful favorite Bavarian Kreme. I did not know that non-payment of taxes is a vital factor in the weight loss regimen of the BIR. More sugar resulting in unhealthy collector?

    * * *

    Aquino and de Lima, it should be recalled, came up with trumped up charges of electoral sabotage against former President Gloria Arroyo and de Lima, in her time as justice chief, was even violating the law and the rights of the political foes of her yellow president.

    And when Arroyo was granted bail by the courts, there went Aquino again, having her charged with plunder to ensure that she stays detained for six years.

    Not one of the human rights group, such as the HRW and Amnesty International, defended the former president and the three then opposition senators.

    * * *

    Arroyo stayed in detention for six years.

    Charges after charges were filed to keep the former president as a trophy of BSA 3rd “straight path” slogan but all were dropped by the courts as ‘empty verbal assaults’ to avenge the return of a popular hacienda in Central Luzon.

    How do we repay her for those “lost and painful years?”

    * * *

    Let’s face it. The Press in our country is one of the freest in the region. Corollaries are protest actions and a vibrant social media. I am not saying unlimited flow of ideas are tolerated but there are numerous clashes between the ruling power and a handful critical outlets.

    There are, of course, the majority that never cease to uphold the purity of the calling and continue to cultivate the stern code of ethics required of the profession.

    Declining patronage due to crowded competition married to a corporate political agenda spoil the broth before the actual mixing the ingredients. Exploitation has replaced informing people’s mind. Sleazy corrupted motives continue to rock the stable in the race to the finish line.

    I despise state controlled efforts to muzzle liberal thoughts about anything but who is going to discipline the Fourth Estate’s misbehavior? The supported theory is self-regulation or policing their ranks. Fine if most groups will be amenable to instill discipline within themselves.

    Recommendations for reform were remarkably measured if not totally nil – the very minimum remedy that is necessary to protect the public from further abuse. Yet even these reforms are being shamelessly resisted by a majority of editors and proprietors.

    Journalists and press standards should ensure that powerful vested interests are not allowed to get away with yet another feeble attempt at self-interested cosmetic reform. If the Press can’t be trusted to hold themselves to account, they have no right to pretend they have any role in holding anyone else to account.

    On the other side of the coin, the government propagandists should not use legal remedies to shield or protect corrupt officials within their ranks.

    I believe passionately in the freedom of the press. However, the press does not have a license to ruin people’s lives or reputations, and it should never be above the law. Unfortunately, even in some parts of the world, some media outfits are largely run by a handful of newsgroups who have the power to corrupt or discredit politicians and others in public office, such as police officers and lawmakers. There are independent bodies who can bring them to courts but media has none.

    We all agree that the partial solution is self-regulation and not about state regulation. But media leaderships are sending the clear message that they want to cling on to their power and that they believe it is acceptable to abuse that power.

    Of course, this is fundamentally undemocratic. If the press cannot regulate themselves properly – and it seems that they cannot – then, like every other profession, they will have to accept external, independent regulation. I hope that they will see sense and that they will put their own house in order while they still have the chance.

    Again, the freedom of the press is extolled as one of the great bulwarks of liberty. It is entrenched in the constitutions of the world. It can publish whatever it chooses to publish. But it does so at its own risk. Afterwards, after the publication, if the press has done anything unlawful they can be dealt with by the courts. If they should damage the reputation of innocent people, they may be made liable in damages. The press is not above the law.

    Just like an individual, the press is also prohibited to conduct any illegal act. The freedom of the press is limited by certain factors. These factors can be internal such as codes of ethics, the power of the editorial and the press associations. As for the external ones, they are public interest, rulings of the court, libel actions, subscriber demands and pressures from powerful groups.

    In other countries, the need for limitations on freedom of the press is recognized and the restrictions are derived from its civil and criminal law. Limitations are also derived from formal agreements. Every freedom is subjected to restrictions and penalties if they are violated and the State can even impose limitations. These limitations are needed in order to avoid crime or disorder.

    Rights and maintenance of order in a country exist due to the State and it’s upon the latter to safeguard and implement those rights. When a right or a freedom is exercised, it should be done in such a manner that it does not cause harm to the State.

    Freedom of the press can be controlled by the government IF it countervails with public interest. In case of war emergency or national security, the State has the power to safeguard itself from any broadcast which may cause obstruction to the nation’s defense or the “prosecution of war against a national enemy.

    It is true that in today’s world, freedom is not absolute. The press industry has to face various limitations imposed by the State. A tough question we ask ourselves: To what extent does a journalist exercise the freedom and where does he or she draw the line when disseminating information? What part of any speech should and should not be covered by the law?

    The answer lies in treating each other with respect. Unadulterated 100 percent respect. And a dignified way of seeking the truth. Nothing less.

    Good work, good deeds and good faith to all.


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