What is Press freedom?

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Press freedom is defined in many ways and its appreciation by the public has changed. According to merriam-webster.com, it is “the right of newspapers, magazines, etc., to report news without being controlled by the government.”

The legal definition also stated that it is “the right to publish and disseminate information, thoughts, and opinions without restraint or censorship…” This right is also enshrined in the 1987 Philippines Constitution particularly in Article 3 Section 4.

But the definition and its integrity in the country is put to test after the license of Rappler, an online news agency, was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) citing foreign ownership, which according to the ruling, violated the Constitution.

The said news agency contends with the decision of SEC, since it appears to be repression of press freedom because according to them, the government tried to pull them down since they are strong critics of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

But, Justice Presbiterio Velasco Jr. said in his opinion column published at news.abs-cbn.com in 2008, “the exercise of this right or any right enshrined in the Bill of Rights, indeed, comes with an equal burden of responsible exercise of that right.”  “The recognition of a right is not free license for the one claiming it to run roughshod over the rights of others,” Velasco emphasized.

As the world celebrates the 20th World Press Freedom Day, Newsline.ph asked views of the working members of the press and the people from all walks of life.

Here’s what they say:

Special Assistant to the President Christopher ‘Bong’ Go: “Press freedom is telling the truth to the public without any bias or conflict of interest. “The government fully recognizes the contributions of journalists in our quest to build a better and more prosperous nation and attain sustainable development for the benefit of our people,” he said.

Go said press freedom plays vital role in molding an informed citizens. It is a free expression of providing right and accurate information. “You help foster public discourse and bring meaningful and lasting change in our society,” he said.

  • A seasoned lawyer and Dean of the Rizal Memorial Colleges law school, Atty. Ramon Edison Batacan: “The constitutional freedom of speech and expression, and of the press allows one to freely utter, say or publish one’s ideas or opinions without prior restraint, and to be protected against any subsequent responsibility for so doing as long as, from a literal reading of the text it shows that the protection is a guarantee against government intervention,” Batacan said.

He said it must be noted that the exercise of this right is not absolute. It does not confer unbridled license to speak or publish without responsibility for every possible use of language.

“There are other societal values that press for protection which means that it may be regulated by a valid exercise of police power,” he said.

  • Digital news publisher, Ben Jason Tesiorna, defined press freedom as being free from bondage from politics, economics, personal bias and prejudice, ignorance and indolence, “Now if one can say that he or she is free from all that, only then can we say we have a real and genuine press freedom. Until then, it’s all but a figment of the imagination,” Tesiorna said.
  • An awarded child rights advocate, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 7 regional chief Supt. Royina Garma defines press freedom as responsible reporting of events with an ultimate goal is to inform the people of true and timely information. “That would guide, empower and inspire the Filipinos in making timely and intelligent decisions that affects their political, economic and personal lives” Garma said.
  • For journalist Chris V. Panganiban, it is liberating working journalists from economic bondage so they can report news as it is without fear and favor.
  • Publisher Joseph Jubelag said that responsible journalism and press freedom are interrelated, “Don’t capitalize on press freedom to pursue vested interest,” Jubelag added.
  • .Tourism operator Cynthia Rodriguez said that for her, press freedom has its corresponding responsibility, “It has to be objective in reporting the many sides of the news.”
  • .Development worker, Hermie Escalante, view press freedom, as the right to exercise of our rights as guaranteed in the constitution. Escalante said this means there should be no threat that will cause fear and should respect other people who are opposite to their views.

Press freedom is the two-word phrase which is often abused and least understood, a reason why journalist should always exercise fairness and sense of responsibility.

The right to express should be taken in the context of the role of the press in a complex environment.-Armando B. Fenequito Jr./Newsline.ph

Be informed