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Timely plea on World Press Freedom Day

Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day. It behooves us to stop and think right now of the countless professional journalists all over the world battling repression, aggression, oppression and deadly other repercussions for the work they do, for uncovering and exposing what is hidden, for simply reporting to the world what they know, for speaking truth to power.

Very timely is the filing three days ago of a “petition-for-intervention” asking the Supreme Court to end President Duterte’s ban against online news organization Rappler and its reporters and correspondents. The petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to hold oral arguments. According to Rappler, the journalists-petitioners “first need to seek [Supreme Court] permission to intervene through a motion for leave, in which they have to defend their legal standing to join the petition.”

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The April 30 petition for intervention was filed by 41 reporters, columnists and anchors for media organizations. Former Supreme Court spokesperson and human rights lawyer Theodore Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group prepared the petition-for-intervention. The petition argues that the Duterte ban could extend to the 41 journalists-petitioners or to any journalist if he so wishes.

Said the petition: “The ban articulated by the President in his March 1, 2018, speech is already in place and it extends not only to Rapper and to its reporters and staff but also to any journalist who would write or broadcast anything that the President deems to be ‘fake news.’”

On April 11, Rappler went to the Supreme Court to question “an unlawful and unjust order to ban our reporters from covering President Rodrigo Duterte.” With the ban, Rappler said, the President also violates the public right to know.

The respondents in the petition-in-intervention filed on April 30 are the Office of the President, Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Communications Operations Office, Media Accreditation Registration Office and the Presidential Security Group.

The petitioners are Patricia Marie I. Ranada, Mara Alyssabel D. Cepeda, Raymon G. Dullana, Franklin Y. Cimatu, Mauricio E. Victa, Camille Kristina S. Elemia, Ralph Martin S. Rivas, Baltazar Espinosa Lagsa and Rappler Inc.

Petitioners-in-intervention are Dr. Florangel Braid, Melinda Q. de Jesus, John Nery, Solita Monsod, Ma. Salvacion “Inday” Varona, Marlon Ramos, Vergel Santos, Lourd Ernest de Veyra, Joselito delos Reyes, Muriel  “Twink” Macaraig, Nikolette Kristine Nonna “Nikko” Dizon, and myself. Plus others listed in an annex page.

While we petitioners-in-intervention have not been subjected to the ban on coverage of the President (the way petitioners in the main case filed on April 11 have been), the petition-in-intervention states that “the nature of the President’s ban on coverage is sufficiently expansive and elastic that their rights under Article III, Section 4 have already been abridged… that only petitioners have felt the brunt of the ban to date does not militate against this resort as the prohibited abridgement under Section 4 is already present.”

So you see, we petitioners-in-intervention “have a clear legal interest in the success of petitioners in the main case” and the petition-in-intervention will, in no way, unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the main case.

We await progress in the two cases.

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On World Press Freedom Day tomorrow, hundreds of events all over the world will take place. World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, following the recommendation of the 26th session of Unesco’s General Conference in 1991.

“It celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, assesses the state of press freedom throughout the world, defends the media from attacks on their independence, and pays tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

This year’s three-day event spearheaded by Unesco and being held in Ethiopia carries the theme: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Time of Disinformation.”

This year, Unesco launched the “Defend Journalism” awareness-raising campaign that supports journalism that debunks falsehoods, uses verified sources and counters disinformation. It encourages a free and independent press through the use of banners on their printed publications and digital platforms. (On my own, I have asked a women’s grassroots group to make me canvas tote bags with “Defend Press Freedom” printed on them.)

’Tis a good time to get your copy of “Press Freedom Under Siege: Reportage that Challenged the Marcos Dictatorship” (UP Press, [email protected]).

Send feedback to [email protected]

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TAGS: ban on coverage of Duterte, Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Rappler, world press freedom day
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