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Attack on the press: An alarming development

/ 05:10 AM March 07, 2019

The arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is an alarming development — unmistakable proof of how embattled press freedom is nowadays. No wonder even the international community has expressed its condemnation of this brazen attack on the press.

When a vital institution such as the press is undermined, it is necessary that Filipinos stand up against this for the sake of the greater good.

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Given the ordeal currently being experienced by opposition senators and staunch Duterte critics Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV, and the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice, is it safe to declare that the arrest of Ressa is something the government had something to do with?

There is no direct evidence that shows the regime’s culpability in the arrest of Ressa, but it is worth noting that the President himself recently stated that Rappler is a propagator of fake news.

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It is ridiculous on many levels that such an accusation should come from an administration that is indisputably associated with fake news.

If a high-profile individual like Ressa could suffer for her beliefs, then what fate is in store for  ordinary, nameless citizens who are also determined to speak their own minds?

To assail the press is to assail the people, for the former not only upholds our right to information, but also works for the stability of our freedom of expression.

The press is indispensable in every State, and certainly in every democracy. As some pundits put it, to be well informed is the greatest power one can achieve. Unless we have the facts, our wrong decisions arising from misinformation can adversely affect our society and country.

There is deep indignation in seeing what seems to be a dark, menacing cloud cast on the press at present; that one must possess obedience rather than independence in order to attain survival — political or social — under the current dispensation; that merely doing your duty of fighting for what you believe is right may render you criminally liable; that those who are in positions of power could easily get away with their misdeeds, distort the truth and neutralize dissent by legal vengeance.

But decriminalizing libel is not the key to immunizing the press from persecution. The problem is not the libel laws, but  rather the justice system that is rife with flaws and loopholes. Insuring the well-being of the press can be accomplished not through the elimination of libel, but the repair of the larger justice system.

Since we are living under a regime that is keen on the idea that it is the responsibility of women to avoid rape, it is  of no use to wish that the arrest of Ressa will be the last of its kind.

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IAN CARLO L. ARAGON, [email protected]

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TAGS: attacks on the press, Ian Carlo L. Aragon, Inquirer letters, Maria Ressa, press freedom, Rappler, Rodrigo Duterte
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