Free press essential to democracy – Recto
“A noisy press is the soundtrack of democracy.”
This was what Senator Ralph Recto had to say days after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered the revocation of online news site Rappler’s license over alleged violation on ownership rules under the Constitution.
Recto said on Wednesday that a free press is essential for democracy to thrive and putting a muzzle on independent reporting is “to limit the exchange of ideas essential to governance.”
“We need an un-cowed media to tell truth to power, to hold rulers accountable, to right the wrongs, to ask the important questions, to improve policy, ‘to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable’,” Recto said in a statement.
The SEC pointed out that the Constitution mandates Philippine media companies to be 100 percent owned by Filipinos. It said that the Philippine depositary receipts (PDR) Rappler issued to its foreign investor, Omidyar Network, requires it to seek the investor’s approval on corporate matters.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa had denied the accusation, saying that the company’s investors do not have a single control on Rappler’s day-to-day and strategic operations.
The SEC order drew wide criticism from free press organizations, saying the move was an attack to press freedom.
Centerlaw, the former law firm of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, said that the SEC decision was unconstitutional for denying Rappler due process, as it was a form of prior restraint.
Recto said that citizens should not be “deprived of this most cherished of rights that our heroes fought for so that we, their descendants, may enjoy it.”
“Freedom of the press is wasted if solely used to praise. It is not there to airbrush the truth or photoshop the ugly, but, like a national mirror, is hoisted in front of us so we can see the true reflection of ourselves, wrinkles and all,” he said.
Government officials may see dealings with the press as an “occupational hazard,” Recto pointed out, but having a “pesky, catankerous, annoying press” is better “than one that is silenced.” /kga