Friday, December 07, 2007

Press Freedom, like all other kinds of freedom, is NOT absolute

It's been one week since that Peninsula stand-off and the media people are still decrying the alleged police harrassment. Hello?! They were warned by no less than NCRPO Chiefe Geary Barias to leave the vicinity of the hotel. They were given until 3:00pm. Did they listen? The foreign correspondents did. But not the others (ABS-CBN, GMA, etc.). In fact, they even cheered when a low-ranking soldier escorted Barias out of the Pen lobby. Man, these reporters can sometimes be so abusive with their press freedom shenanigans. They think its absolute.

That's why I agree with what Atty. Emil Jurado wrote in his column today. Here it is:


NEWSPAPER headline, quoting Interior Secretary Ronnie Puno during the government-media dialog, screamed yesterday: We’ll arrest press again!

It was all to attract people’s attention, for the sake of circulation.

What the headline didn’t say was that Puno was referring to a situation similar to the Nov. 29 The Peninsula, Manila standoff, when Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Scout Ranger Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim foisted that foolish, irresponsible and reckless caper to demand the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the installation of a new government—clearly acts of rebellion and coup d’etat.

With media’s insistence on staying at the hotel despite appeals from the police for them to vacate the premises, clearly there was obstruction of justice.

When people obstruct justice, they commit a crime.


That dialog was an eye-opener. It aimed to end the confusion on how far both the media and law enforcers can go in the event of a possible confrontation like that one at the Pen, where journalists were handcuffed and transported to Camp Bagong Diwa for processing.

Despite the arrogance of some media people, like the Tres Marias of ABS-CBN who proclaimed they had the right to be in the midst of everything because it was their job, in pursuance of the freedom of the press and the people’s right to know, media in general and ABS-CBN in particular must be told that this freedom and this right are not infinite.

Any freedom or civil right must be balanced and equated with other rights, especially when it involves the right of the state to restore peace and order and stabilize the country. As a journalist, I am free to express my opinion, but certainly, not free to libel or malign others. That is the reason why there’s the libel law.

On occasions like this, we must distinguish between print and broadcast media. Anybody, for instance, is free to publish a newspaper. Congress, however, must grant a franchise and a permit to operate for would-be players in radio and television. After all, the airlanes are a public domain.

The tres Marias, who rule the giant network’s public affairs department and manage its news people, should also read the conditions of their franchise.

This is in reference to the ban on broadcasting propaganda materials of the enemies of the state, like rebels and coup plotters, or aiding them, or broadcasting troop movements. But isn’t this what ABS-CBN did when a broadcaster monitored the movements of the government’s assault team, much to the convenience of the coup plotters who were also watching television inside Manila Pen?

While many of my colleagues went on police-bashing mode over the arrest and detention of some media people, I maintained that what the police did was in accordance to procedure. Definitely, it should not be faulted.

Once again, I repeat that the police were not the enemy in that hotel caper, The coup plotters were. That’s why I deplore all the police bashing that went on. You would think the police were the culprits. Santa Banana, how many crimes have been committed in the name of press freedom and the people’s right to know!"

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