Inappropriate insult

Inappropriate insult

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa rapped on winning the coveted 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

Maria Ressa, the co-awardee of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, appears to be an ill-omened developing story in this country where press freedom has loud echoes in every corner, exactly the diametrical opposite of what she has made her fans at home and abroad believe.

Only days after the Nobel Peace Prize was announced in Oslo on October 8 it would be given this year to her and Russian Dmitry Muratov, her Rappler digital media company, which she co-founded, continues to come under criticism for what many say is biased reporting for certain sections.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Ressa and Muratov “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

The two, in the myopic eyes of the Committee, “are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

But we ask: Is freedom of the press in this country coming under increasingly unfavorable conditions, such that members of media are told by the government what to write, what not to write, what to print and what not to print, what to broadcast and what not to broadcast?

Like many practitioners of the craft, those who have the alphabet and strength as well as courage to criticize the government and its agencies, have asked, in various decibel levels, what has Ressa done to put her differently situated as those criticizing the government?

And then there is this proposal in the Senate to award Ressa the Medal of Excellence for being gifted with the Nobel Peace Prize, called, but properly, by columnist Rigoberto Tiglao “an insult to us professional Philippinne journalists, and to all Filipinos.”

Giving Ressa that award is spelling out falsehood and duplicity to read candor and forthrightness, and raising guile to the level of craftiness that must be immediately taken by the different publics. Such hypocrisy.

Earlier on, Ressa was found guilty of cyber libel in a landmark case, where the court said “The right to free speech and freedom of the press cannot and should not be used as a shield against accountability.”

Ressa, reacting to her convictions, said “It wasn’t unexpected. If you look at it in the context of the eight criminal charges I face, I had to post bail eight times last year just to remain free. And so when I listened to it, I just tried hard not to get angry and then to figure out how do we continue doing our jobs better, given these attacks.”

Ressa’s associate, former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr., wrote a story in 2012 alleging that a former chief justice maintained close ties with businessmen, including Wilfredo Keng.

In 2017, Keng filed charges against Ressa and Santos Jr., disputing an intelligence report quoted in the article that linked him to drug trafficking activities.

“As this court is mandated to dispense justice, it shall do so not only to protect the Fourth Estate’s freedom of expression and of the press, but also equally to protect the rights of private individuals, such as Keng,” the court ruled.

It seems some in media have the false notion that there are no limitations to freedom of the press.

The Oslo Committee said Ressa “uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.”

But did the Committee ask around if there has been abuse of power in the Philippines in real time? And that Ressa is indeed “a fearless defender of freedom of expression” in this country where the press is not just free but at times licentious?

The Committee said Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign and the number of deaths “is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population.”

An assertion, that one, not based on facts.

The Committee added Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media are being used “to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.”

Such falsehood.

“Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time,” he Committee said.

Let’s face it, and face it well. Freedom of the press – the right to report news or circulate opinion without censorship from the government – has been considered “one of the great bulwarks of liberty” in various democracies.

This freedom is not denied in this country of 110 million. But there are some, believed by the blatantly credulous, who loudly suggest in their paragraphs there is no freedom of the press where they have the freedom to criticise without any government muzzle.

Freedom of the press is alive and breathing in this country, whatever government critics are saying with their lungs’ volume.

If there have been journalists killed, it is not because they were slain because they were fighting for this freedom that makes some awards a mockery.

The Committee has failed in doing the right research. And it is insulting, as it has insulted, the professional practitioners who have been working hard to help maintain the balance of power in government. (ai/mtvn)

Leave a Reply