Friday, May 01, 2009

Thoughts on world press freedom day

Today is World Press Freedom day.
There is not much to celebrate.
There is much to worry.
There is more to mourn.
Early this week, in a chat with Jose Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute, with so much passion he ranted "press freedom is non-negotiable!"
He lamented after meeting with House Speaker Prospero Nograles, together with other press groups to discuss the right-of-reply bills pending in the House.
Politicians are toying with the idea of pushing through with the right-of-reply bills, so long as there is an accompanying move to scrap the criminal libel law.
It's the usual quid-pro-quo, a craft which politicans are masters of.
Horse-trading, in other words.
According to Joe Pavia, "you cannot negotiate press freedom."
It's either you have it, or you don't.
Unfortunately for politicians, they just don't get it.
In a democracy, can a person be "half-free" and "half-shackled"?
On another front, reporters from the Chicago Tribune are "roiling", complaining, about a move by their marketing department which raises ethical questions.
A marketing strategy adopted was to survey readers which stories they would like to get published in the newspaper.
Apparently, some written, unpublished stories were used as reference.
The news reporters sent an email complaining against this strategy.
"It is a fundamental principle of journalism that we do not give people outside the newspaper the option of deciding whether or not we should publish a story, whether they be advertisers, politicians or just regular readers," the email read.
Here in the Philippines, legislators too, now want to become journalists.
With the right-of-reply bills, they want to intrude into the newsroom, and participate in deciding what stories get to be published.
I don't know what is in journalism, that even politicians now want to tinker.
Politicans are fond of tinkering with everything.
They fiddle around with peoples' money.
They want to bungle the constitution.
Now they want to meddle with newspapers.
As the Chinese saying goes: "May you live in interesting times."
For journalists, they do.

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