They pray the Court "prohibit the enforcement" of the above advisory, thus giving journalists a virtual carte blanche to disobey lawful orders during authorized police or military operations. They want to be declared ABOVE THE LAW because they supposedly have Press Freedom. Ano, sinusuerte sila? This is not a serious legal case, but both Media and Supreme Court are determined and destined to make beautiful headlines together. Isn't that obvious?DOJ ADVISORYPLEASE 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 JOURNALISTS 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.
In my opinion Manila Pen was an issue akin to that of Crowd Control. When a given situation is declared to be a crime scene by the Police, it is the legal and moral obligation of all citizens to comply with any reasonable police requests, orders or ultimata [sic!], even if they happen to be journalists. It is hardly any suppression of Press Freedom for the press to cover events from say 100 meters away instead of having to be 1 meter away from the blazing guns and swirling tear gas! Of course all the Sturm und Drang whipped up by the Press has obscured this central issue, that by disobeying the police's instructions on that day, the press unnecessarily endangered life and limb, not only theirs, but the police.
Upon close inspection the advisory merely declares the intention of the authorities to enforce the laws of the land relevant to situations like the Manila Pen standoff, in which Mass Media and Civilians with no clear chain of command and control created a complex and dangerous situation that was miraculously resolved peaceably. But it ended with the assailed arrests of some 50 media personalities who refused to vacate the hotel even after three police ultimata. Now it's them that claim aggrievement. The Public has turned a cold shoulder.
It was not our Right to Know that was endangered at the Manila Pen. It was the Right to Life, primarily of the police who did not know what they were facing in Trillanes' Little Trap at the Manila Pen. The Journalists who stayed endangered not only their lives but also that of the police. I do believe more journalists obeyed the police than disobeyed them.
THE PRIORITY OF LIBERTIES The rights of Journalism, as organized Free Speech, are actually the rights of commerce. Journalism is the right to freely buy and sell information of all kinds (”Speech”). A newspaper, tv or radio station is first and foremost a commercial enterprise for profit. Although the marketing hype usually invokes such things as serving the public’s right to know, it cannot be denied that 80% of media income comes from selling telecomm load and peddling movie tsismis. A nilpotent amount of journalism goes to such lofty activities as fueling corrupt uprisings to overthrow popular Presidents, though such sensational crusading is essential to the success of the enterprise.
Consider: a Waiter, a Journalist and a Cop.
Whose job is it to serve the famous Manila Pen halo-halo and satisfy our right to pursue happiness?
Whose job is it to report on the news event and thus satisfy our right to know by exercising the Liberty called Press Freedom?
Whose job is it to protect everyone’s Right to Life by upholding the Law and preserving public peace and order?
The Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, in that lexical order, are truths self-evident (since 1776).
But it is their PRIORITY as revealed to us by common sense that some journalists ignore.
The Right to Life of cops is most in danger of being violated by rebels and putschists. But the reason Waiters and Journalists morally ought to accept the priority of the cops doing their job rests in that ranking of rights and duties.
Freedom is a compound whose elements are rights and duties.
The duty with higher priority is the one whose corresponding right is has a higher lexical order.
Thus, although the waiter has the right to serve halo-halo, he cannot insist upon exercising it if the cops say they have a job to do involving public order and security!
The right to life trumps the right to serve happiness in a glass of Manila Pen halo halo.
Likewise the right to life (of everyone, not just the cops) trumps the right to find stuff out and sell sensational news.
WHY ARE SCOOPS IMPORTANT? Being so lucrative, journalism is a competitive industry. The need for scoops in Journalism is like the need of our shabu-addicted bus drivers on EDSA to "scoop up" passengers before the Other Guy does. Since most of the inside pages off prime time material is mundane and boring, all media needs the Front Pages and Prime Time News to have sensational eye popping news and views. Without such colorful packaging and gaudy wrappers and spicy calumnies, where would our brand of Fast Food Journalism be?
COGNOS UBER ALLES: Still there is a school of thought which believes that the Right to Know has the highest possible priority because of the honored place it holds in our Constitution and democratic traditions.
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.However, the absolutist interpretation of this provision favored by today's petitioners, does not sustain any vitality when one contemplates the dire abridgements of broadcast media's freedoms glaringly self-evident in their Franchise Agreements with Congress, abridgements they have willingly accepted in exchange for the lucrative privilege of commercially exploitating the electromagnetic spectrum.
Naturally, Hammers are determined to protect their right to drive Nails into hard surfaces. And there can be no possible ceiling to the altitudes of eloquence reached by the press freedom fighters of our day and age in its defense and their right to take the offensive on any and all Public Figures.
The job of journalists is deemed to be so noble and essential to the well-being of the masses that ANY interference by the Police -- such as daring to stop a bunch of rebel putschists from acting out "Edsa Next" at a luxury Makati hotel is tantamount to abridging the Freedom of the Press and detrimental to the Public's Right to Know.
Here is Maria Ressa's Statement upon filing the Petition today...
Wow! What a perfectly hyperbolic piece of emotional blackmail!
"We Have Press Freedom or We Don’t. There is No Middle Ground."
Statement delivered by Maria Ressa before the press conference on the filing of a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition before the Supreme Court 28 January 2008, ManilaLast week, 11 of our colleagues went to the Supreme Court to question the legality of their arrests after the Manila Peninsula siege and to ask for reprieve from the repeated threats and attempts to harass and intimidate journalists. Today, almost a hundred journalists from more than 15 media organizations join them. Some of us were among those arrested, without the benefit of a warrant – the largest number of journalists arrested by a democratic government while reporting on a political conflict. For those of us who were not arrested, we are just as affected by recent moves which we unanimously believe are designed to limit press freedom.
The line has been moved. For each of us, it would be easier to pretend we didn’t notice, but we know that if we do nothing, we help destroy press freedom. That is why we came to the Supreme Court today.
We take this action because we cannot allow press freedom to be confined to narrow physical bounds and narrowly interpreted principles, conveniently defined by those in authority to serve the political interests of the moment.
This is a good time to review the government policy on press freedom – after Proclamation 1017 in 2006, the arrests of more than 50 journalists after the Manila Peninsula siege last year and the continuing intimidation, threats, and warnings issued by government authorities in recent weeks and days. This is the reason why we, as journalists, have come forward to present our cases.
We reject any suggestion that we are resorting to “trial by publicity.” We are taking the legal high road because we believe we either have press freedom or we don’t. There is no middle ground.
The individual stories of the petitioners and plaintiffs in the cases filed today provide compelling facts that need to be presented before the scrutiny of the courts of the land in the interest of truth and justice. Our objective is not just relief, but for the Supreme Court to help us correct the current situation where, we believe, press freedom is being constantly redefined and constrained.
Our petition before the Supreme Court explains our reasons, and I quote:
“The arrests of the journalists who covered the hotel siege; the threats, warnings and “reminders” of re-arrest and/or criminal liability; the public denunciation of the press as coddlers of military rebels; and the treatment of the press as combatants are unconstitutional because they unduly restrict petitioners’ rights to free speech and expression, vitiate the freedom of the press, and prevent the exercise of the people’s constitutional right to information on matters of public concern.”
If our country is to remain the democracy we reclaimed in 1986, then, we, as journalists, should be allowed to exercise our professions, reporting events as they happen, when they happen. By submitting ourselves to the courts, we show our faith in the institutions of the State, regardless of how we have been treated by some of its officials.
Ultimately, the decision that will be handed down by our courts will influence the future of democracy in our country.
In the end, our democracy is only as good as we make it. The existence of democratic institutions - a separate legislature, an independent Judiciary - a Constitutional guarantee of free expression, and a free press, do not themselves guarantee a democracy. They only make democracy possible. Making it a reality depends on the men and women who make it work.
Our action today is media’s contribution to democracy in our country. This is our commitment to upholding it and making it work for our people.