Freedom of expression cannot be negotiated

STATEMENT
29 May 2014
It was, perhaps, to be expected of our “honorable” politicians, that they again use media as their whipping boy when scandal blows up in their faces.
And so we once again have lawmakers angered by the allegations raised by ONE newspaper slavering to sic the right of reply bill wholesale on media.
Worse, we have the chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights making like a drama queen withdrawing support for the decriminalization of libel.
But it was obvious he never intended to back libel decriminalization in the first place.
One only has to recall his statement after the hearing on the proposal when he blurted out the classic cop-out that there were bound to be even more media killings if libel were decriminalized.
And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Pimentel has bared himself as a stereotypical abuser of the criminal libel law, with his desire to “take advantage” of the statute while it remains in the Revised Penal Code to exact revenge on Janet Lim Napoles and “some media outfits” for deigning to drag him into the mud and filth of the pork barrel scam.
Yes, we have admitted and will admit it again that ethics, or the lack thereof, are a serious concern for the Philippine media and, to some extent, is among the reasons – NOT justification – for the continued assaults on and vilification of journalists, as well as, sadly, the erosion of public sympathy and trust.
But, NO, we will not allow the profession to be butchered and mangled into a servile mouthpiece for the very people responsible for the massive thievery that constitutes governance in this benighted land.
We will not, as those who wish to force the right of reply bill on us, allow them to take over newspaper, air and online space to freely spout their lies and inanities without challenge.
While we will never condone irresponsible journalism, neither can they use it as an excuse to expropriate what is not theirs.
Besides, being abused by a single entity does not deprive them of their right to reply to the charges in other media or, as so many of these suddenly sensitive creatures are known to do, set up their own “outlets” or purchase their own airtime to freely inflict on those who would read or listen to them their own brand of “public information and opinion.”
As for the senator’s theory that decriminalizing libel will lead to more media killings, why then, if indeed corruption were a valid justification for murder, do the corrupt continue to thrive in the halls of Congress and the corridors of power?

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