by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
Weekly Kapehan forum on November 21, 2009 tackled the topic, "Press Freedom and Role of Media in 2010 election." Of the invited speakers Atty. Allen S. Quimpo honored the invitation. With his experience as congressman, educator, and lawyer, he ably explained the true meaning of the freedom of speech and of the press. He also urged the members of the Aklan media to be sincere in their search for truth and members of the fourth estate with high integrity.
Quimpo was comp-lemented by Dr. Ambrosio R. Villorente and bevy of tri-media personalities chipping in their analysis and insights on the subject. Dr. Villorente said that press freedom is found in Article III, section 9 of the 1987 Constitution, Bill of Rights says: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievance."
Dr. Antonio Orendain in his book, New Philippine Constitution and Government said that the freedom of the press ensures the unfettered flow of information to the public, makes people aware of the plans, activities and problems of government and helps formulate intelligent opinion on vital issues. Press publication includes books, magazines, periodicals, handbills, pamphlets, leaflets and broadcast media – radio and TV.
Jun Prado, a veteran journalist declared that in a democratic society, the press plays the role of a watchdog. Otherwise known as the 4th Estate. "It functions as fiscalizer of the three branches of government namely: Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. Without a functional free press we could not be enjoying our democratic freedoms", Prado stressed.
Atty. Allen S. Quimpo said, "RP media is the freest in Asia. Recent London-based Legtum Institute and Gallup World Poll showed that of 104 countries surveyed, the Philippines ranks first among 20 Asian countries. Also 85 percent of the Filipinos are satisfied of the press freedom they enjoy.
Freedom of the press according to the ex-solon has four guarantees namely: a) Freedom from prior restrain – means that freedom from government censorship of production; b) Freedom from subsequent liability – or any person may not be punished for anything he writes or publishes unless it is libelous, obscene or seditious; c) Freedom from circulation – unhampered distribution of newspapers and other media to the widest possible readership; d) Right to access to public information – access to government records, paper and documents as long as they are not classified confidential must be made available to the press.
The role of media practitioners to educate, inform and entertain the public on a particular issue and concern is rated high considering the impact to the present and future generation. Molding public opinion in a democratic society is one of the rare privileges given to man hence to be exercised with prudence and responsibility. There may be exceptions such as when there is double personality involved such as legitimate media practitioner or PR man of politicians/agencies.
In the case of dual role, truth and objectivity are always sacrificed. It will not last long. Dr. Ambrosio R. Villorente said that the best public relations job is good performance. For instance, Akelco’s PR budget of P300,000 is wasted if customers continue to experience lousy and expensive services.
"To be successful in the broadcast media, one must be fair and balance in reporting the news", said Conrad Indelible of RGMA-DYRU Kalibo. Indelible confirmed a big number of avid listeners as a sign of approval of the company and personal satisfaction.
On the other hand, Recto Vidal, a freelance writer said being in the print media is never remunerative. Both Dr. Villorente and Che Indelible, Editor of Aklan headline affirmed financial difficulties of news papering yet treasure personal values, level of public acceptance, wider circulation and paid ads on their publications.
To say that being in the media is all bliss could be misleading. Based on statistics, extra judicial killings of political activists and mediamen reached 290 killed since 2004, the year PGMA came to power. The ranks of journalists and radio TV broadcasters in this country are thinning compounded by the slow wheels of justice accorded to victims and their families.
The latest man slaughters happened on Monday, November 23 in Maguindanao where 32 media men were killed. They were covering political leaders who were on their way to file their Certificates of Candidacy in Shariff Agwak, Maguindanao when they were snatched and killed by goons. These killings were the most brutal, heinous, and cruelest in the world.
This Maguindanao grand man slaughters is condemned at its highest term possible. This brutal killings should not happen in any civilized community. This must be the end, this must be stopped.
If we have to evaluate true freedom of speech and press, there should be negligible incidence of summary killings, harass-ment, and libel suits filed against mediamen playing their legitimate profession. Bottom line is that since our democratic society cannot guarantee this cherished freedom, therefore media practitioners are not also free to exercise their Constitutional right. Indeed the media has responsibility as member of the 4th Estate yet, unable to come up to expectation because of ineffective law enforcement. So much is at stake. One can only hope for better times ahead. /MP