Friday, January 11, 2008

Do Journalists Have More Freedom of Speech Than "Civilians"?

SHOULD MASS MEDIA POLICE ITS OWN RANKS? CAN THEY BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE WHEN THEY DON'T? Talk about stirring up a hornets nest! DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez may be cruisin' for a bruisin' with the Mass Media as he issued an ALLCAPS advisory last evening to the heads of all major media organizations
GONZALEZ: "PLEASE BE REMINDED THAT YOUR RESPECTIVE COMPANIES, NETWORKS OR ORGANIZATIONS MAY INCUR CRIMINAL LIABILITIES UNDER THE LAW, IF ANYONE OF YOUR FIELD REPORTERS, NEWS GATHERERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, CAMERAMEN AND OTHER MEDIA PRACTITIONERS WILL DISOBEY LAWFUL ORDERS FROM DULY AUTHORIZED GOVERNMENT OFFICERS AND PERSONNEL DURING EMERGENCIES WHICH MAY LEAD TO COLLATERAL DAMAGE TO PROPERTIES AND CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN CASE OF AUTHORIZED POLICE OR MILITARY OPERATIONS."

On closer scrutiny, Sec. Gonzalez is doing a very clever thing. He is putting the responsibility on the Management and Owners of the newspapers, tv and radio stations for what happens when their employees get in the way of police and military operations. He wantss the Mass Media to police its own ranks and threatens to hold them accountable legally when they don't and bad things happen as a result of their insistence upon a right to be in harms way.

This ought to remind everybody that Journalism is not done for free by crusading free lancers, but is a major organized commercial enterprise that buys and sells information as news, opinion, entertainment, sports, obits, business. Satisfying the allegedly insatiable Right of the Public to Know comes with a reasonable fee for the service. The kind of journalism Sec. Gonzalez is addressing is distinctly private enterprise journalism.

Indeed, Mass Media is Big Business. The Right to Know cannot be exercised without the right to buy and sell advertising in newspapers, magazines, billboards, tv and radio. The Public's Right to Know cannot exist without the Mass Media having the Right to Find Out Stuff and tell the rest of us about it. But real journalism is always done in the context of a commercial exercise and a major area of livelihoood. In the case of broadcast journalism, we have a regulated industry in which franchises are basically licenses to make money by using the public airwaves as the medium of transmission. But in all cases, Private Sector journalism finances the servicing of the public's right to know by selling advertising, which is really a way for the Public to pay for the service. Of course, even advertising is covered by the right to Know and Freedom of Speech.

The DOJ Secretary seems to have a particular hard-on out for the Broadcast Media (TV and Radio) probably because he knows the Government actually has a lot more legal clout over them with that Franchise Law hanging over their heads, unlike newspapers, which don't require a legislative franchise. In the very real sense that every tv or radio franchisee has given the government the right to take over its facilities upon command of the President, as well as a number of other conditions imposed by the Franchise Law, we could say that broadcasters have less Press Freedom than newspapers! But this of course applies only at the level of the institutions and corporations, not the individual reporters and journalists.

In a recent published essay, Founding Father Joaquin Bernas SJ opined that in relation to the Freedom of Expression, journalists do not have more rights than ordinary civilians or citizens. If one reads the ALLCAPS Media advisory above and applies it to ordinary citizens, it would seem to be eminently reasonable. Therefore the point of Bernas becomes decisive: ALLCAPS applies equally to journalists, who ought not to have some kind of exulted or superior privilege in matters of public order and security, just because they are in the business of satisfying the Public's Right to Know.


WHY ISN'T THIS THE HEADLINE?: In 2005, the Social Weather Stations found that 60% of Filipinos support the National ID. (And you can bet 99% support the National ID to fight Red Tape, graft and fraud and promote government efficiency and accountability.)
SWS: 60% of Filipinos Support National ID Three out of five (60%) Filipinos agree with the use of National Identification card (ID) to help in the fight against terrorism, while about half are confident that the government can be trusted to protect the personal information contained in the ID card, according to the First Quarter 2005 Social Weather Survey, conducted on February 25 to March 10, 2005.
STRANGE that newspapers like the Philippine Daily Innuendo ("Biased News, Fearful Views") don't headline the Social Weather Stations survey on public support for a National ID system. Even stranger, the Social Weather Stations isn't saying much either, even if they have the relevant DATA that ought to be publicized, including a whole series of surveys done since the 1990s in which majorities as high as 77% support the National ID idea.

Had SWS asked, they might have measured an even greater majority who support a National ID to promote efficiency and coverage of basic government sevices.

No doubt, any major data gathering operation by the government represents a potential opportunity to practice a lil fascism or totalitarianism, but this danger is far outweighed, in my opinion, by the practical benefits to the public, the government and law enforcers.

10 comments:

Cocoy said...

in this day and age when our attention is swamped by so much information, i think, more so than ever before, this is apt: "Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some to be chewed and digested.”

put in another way, i think we all need to upgrade our discerning skill.

john marzan said...

I can't support a national ID, and it is where I disagree with Ping Lacson. Arroyo's hand in this should make it a no brainer, for most Filipinos.

I wonder if those who support arroyo and her national ID scheme will be as gung ho if a guy like lacson pushes for it if he becomes president?

WHY ISN'T THIS THE HEADLINE?:

it isn't a news headline now because that survey was done 2 years ago.

It was done prior to the Gloriagate mess.

besides, sws surveys are flawed, you said it yourself. so using an sws survey now just because you agree with it is just too convenient.

DJB Rizalist said...

John,
You haven't actually said WHY you are against it though or why it's such a no brainer.

Maybe its because you think it won't work as a national security thing. That remains to be seen. But how do you solve the problem of fraud and graft and chaos from the simple lack of identification.

How do you suggest we solve that problem?

As for the SWS survey, I'm looking for consistency in the newspapers and in SWS itself. They can't just sweep the results from 1995 to 2005 under the rug. Why did they stop asking that question anyway?

As for me, I don't need the survey to tell what Filipinos feel about it. They support it. How come you don't. I'd like to know. And why is it suddenly "gloria's" id when she just said the Congress has to enact a law to make it so?

john marzan said...

John,
You haven't actually said WHY you are against it though or why it's such a no brainer.


because it won't work in preventing another 9/11 or a superferry attack. Because it can easily be abused by this adminstration, and i don't think i can trust our gov't with people's privacy. maybe it's just me. i don't trust the COMELEC or the CBCP either.(shrugs)

Maybe its because you think it won't work as a national security thing. That remains to be seen. But how do you solve the problem of fraud and graft and chaos from the simple lack of identification.

most of the fraud/corruption are being committed by rogue gov't officials, rogue election officials, and rogue military officials. I suggest the first step is to remove these people first. or else, a thing like the automated voting system won't be credible.

As for the SWS survey, I'm looking for consistency in the newspapers and in SWS itself. They can't just sweep the results from 1995 to 2005 under the rug. Why did they stop asking that question anyway?

But they haven't "swept it under the rug".

and there were no surveys on national id done by SWS in 1995. but there was one in 1997 (77% approve) and pre-Gloriagate, post 9/11 Apr. 2005 (60%). i bet if a survey was done today, arroyo's national id proposal will dip to less than 50%.

And why is it suddenly "gloria's" id when she just said the Congress has to enact a law to make it so?

because her administration's the one pushing for it.

blackshama said...

I'm for a national ID since it should make citizen transaction with the government more simple.

We have a separate number for driving, tax, GSIS, voter, PRC registration etc. Who can remember all of these?

In short the national ID should make us more competitive.

Also we foresee a time when ASEAN will be more integrated like the EU. The national ID should come handy when doing business or employment.

As for security and liberties, the State need not need a national ID to clamp down on our freedoms. Our vigilance is the best defence against incipent tyrants.

Cocoy said...

john said: "because it won't work in preventing another 9/11 or a superferry attack. Because it can easily be abused by this adminstration, and i don't think i can trust our gov't with people's privacy. maybe it's just me. i don't trust the COMELEC or the CBCP either.(shrugs)"

i actually agree on that. i don't trust them any of them. i don't think they're smart enough to protect whatever data they collect about me. Haven't we heard enough of people losing bank data from all over the world?

it's easy enough to trace people what with banks, with driver's licenses, with passports, with sss/gsis cards, with nbi clearances, hmo cards, and all that crap just out there. what use is there for a national id system?

blackshama: "I'm for a national ID since it should make citizen transaction with the government more simple.

We have a separate number for driving, tax, GSIS, voter, PRC registration etc. Who can remember all of these?"

i'm a big advocate of cutting complexity. and that argument actually does have merit. in a perfect world that makes sense. but this isn't a perfect world. forgive me for being cynical, this is just another way to make money for whoever and i don't trust anybody holding that great a power over me. i can't help but think "single point of failure".

seriously, would you trust Government--- any single government to have all that information under their finger tip?

if (any) government was really smart and doing their job, if they really want to hunt down the bad guys, they don't need a national id system. all they really need is to mine all the data they have. sort of like a google for government. that was if they were smart. they don't need legislation for data that they already have, do they?

i don't think the Philippine Government (doesn't matter if it is Arroyo or her successor) or any entity for that matter is sophisticated enough to understand how to protect, and mine information.

blackshama said...

Cocoy:

My employer, the University of the Philippines has that kind of information about me. The UP is NOT a democratic institution for the decisions are made by the regents we constituents don't get to elect. But I am not worried that a UP official will violate my privacy.

Also the United States government has that kind of information about me. Anyone the Americans granted a visa would have that info from him/her. They have my biometric information! I have no citizen's rights of redress with a State that doesn't have my allegiance.

I do not trust the University of the Philippines or the United States Government about my personal infomation. Citizens SHOULD never completely trust their government. The fact is that there are laws or rules to protect privacy in the US and even at UP. It is not the idea of a national ID system that is the danger but the lack of laws that will protect civil liberties or worse the lack of vigilance to protect these.

Even without a national ID, tin pot dictator wannabes at the Palace will have their way if we lower our guard.

Cocoy said...

blackshama: "Even without a national ID, tin pot dictator wannabes at the Palace will have their way if we lower our guard."

*nods in agreement*

Anonymous said...

In the US, commercial companies have already built up large-scale databases on people-movement. For a little bit under $80, one can submit first-name/last-name (and social-security, if you have it; a starting city and state address (so they can limit the search)) and one gets the addresses of ALL PEOPLE whose name "sounds like" the target-name you submitted.
The ones who want to hide will know how to hide. The abused spouse seeking to run away.... tough luck.

tiki said...

The catch with a national ID system is that there are lots of things needed for check-and-balance, maintenance, and to make sure that no one abuses it. For example, from what I know Singapore has something like a dossier on every citizen but it also minimizes corruption by giving high salaries to government employees. It also provides more than enough electricity to the whole country to power up telecomm networks needed for this type of system. I don't think both, together with other requirements, are present in the Philippines.