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Digong ‘fans’ intolerant of others’ free speech

12:02 AM October 05, 2016

IN WHAT is becoming a common and increasingly alarming occurrence, two more journalists have been threatened for coming out with reports that did not sit well with some supporters of President Duterte who consider criticism against the President a violation of their article of faith.

The GRPundit section of the pro-Duterte GetRealPhilippines site, in an anonymous post, accused veteran Reuters reporters Manny Mogato and Karen Lema of deliberately misreporting Mr. Duterte’s controversial “Hitler” comments. It also warned that “malicious and irresponsible journalists” like them “are the true enemies of democracy” and “should be punished with the full force of the law”—as if journalism were a crime.

Before long, it had become a meme featuring Mogato’s and Lema’s photos circulated by the President’s followers, often with added comments calling for violent punitive action against them, and controls on freedom of the press and expression.

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Mr. Duterte’s order to his supporters not to harm journalists and leave them to pursue independent reporting about his government seems to have fallen on deaf ears, drowned by the overflowing zeal of an army of social media warriors who are quick to play deaf and blind to the President’s lapses in judgment and uncouth statements, as if he were infallible.

It is doubly unfortunate and ironic that among those who have joined what is practically the online lynch mob are people from the media or performing arts and related professions, or even activists who would have been unable to thrive if not for the very same freedom of the press and expression the suppression of which they are now suggesting.

We have said it before and we say it again: Media and journalists are not averse to criticism; in fact, we always welcome it—no matter how harsh or even insulting it is—both as a means to engage with their audiences as well as to learn from them, especially when we commit mistakes. Calling out our errors not only serves to improve journalism practice, it also enriches the public discourse.

But threatening journalists when their reportage is disagreeable or erroneous is criminal.

We stand by Manny Mogato and Karen Lema, and all other colleagues facing threats and other pressures because of the work they do; and we are sure that all of our colleagues who take pride in the profession of helping people exercise their right to know will do the same, even in the face of danger.

We are worried about the continuing vilification of media people and the attempts to lay the predicate for the muzzling of the freedom of the press and of expression. However, we are certain that most of the public we serve know and understand the crucial role an independent Fourth Estate plays in a democracy.

It is because of the people that we exist, and for them that we persevere.

—RYAN D. ROSAURO, chair, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, nujphil@gmail.com

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TAGS: Duterte, Hitler, Jews, Journalism, journalist, letter, Letter to the Editor, Media, opinion, press
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