Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shield Law IX: The Editorial that sparked it

It was the editorial published in the defunct Manila Post on June 4, 1946 that sparked the move to enact a shield law in the Philippines to protect journalists from forced disclosures of the sources of their news reports.
Because it has historic value, the I will quote the editorial. I lifted this from the deliberations of the Senate of the First Republic on the proposed shield law (Senate Bill No. 6) since as of now, I haven't gotten hold of the best evidence: a copy of the June 4 1946 issue of Manila Post (yet).
I would not know how to get one, since the paper has long 'retired' or (permanently) "put to bed"---to use a newspaperman's lingo.
The editorial wrote:
"Two very recent instances familiar to Philippine newspaper readers reveal that even in this democratic sector of the globe a free press has not yet been fully realized. The staff of the Pacifican, army paper complained sometime ago of too much censorship. The other day a member of the Roxas cabinet "off limits" newsmen from his office because he could not stomach the criticisms against the President.
"The unforgetful public will recall that the 'back pay' Congress took offense at the well-intentioned criticism of the editor of this paper against the lawmaking body and wanted to investigate him. It will also be recalled that a few months ago a report of this paper was jailed for not complying with a Supreme Court magistrate's order that he divulge the source of his news. The reporter, true to the ideal of fearlessness to which this paper is voted and in consonance with a well-established journalistic canon, preferred incarceration to violation of the confidence reposed in him by his informant."
The paper may since have folded up, but it has left an indelible legacy to Philippine journalism. It was to make that bold initiative to shake the halls of Congress to enact an important piece of legislation that would serve to institutionalize the much needed protection for those dedicated to maintain the free flow of information to society.

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