Tag Archives: press freedom

Column: ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome Rappler?’

Published on January 16, 2018, after the Duterte regime’s continuing offensive against press freedom entered a new and more dangerous phase. Please also see: 10-tweet thread I posted on the same day the column came out.

If you squint hard enough, you can pretend that the little you see in front of you is the most important thing to see. If you do it long enough, you can even convince yourself that the little you do see is all there is to see in the world.

This sleight of sight explains the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission, when it ruled that Rappler, the social media network, had violated constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media entities and revoked its certificate of incorporation. If this revocation stands, Rappler will effectively be shut down — the first time a news organization will be closed by government action since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Continue reading


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“To the gallant journalists who work in Catholic media and to the Catholic journalists who work in secular media”

Signis 011918

A response to Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s keynote speech at the “Catholic Media in Challenging Times” forum in San Carlos Seminary, Makati City. Friday, January 19, 2018.

The responsible shepherd 

It is an honor to be here; I don’t know if taking part in today’s forum qualifies as a plenary indulgence, but this sinner certainly jumped at the chance when the invitation arrived.

I share Cardinal Chito’s misgivings about not having a female perspective on this panel; I hope we can help cure that in the Q&A. But I look at the panel and I realize—this is not only missing the female perspective, it’s missing other male perspectives too, because we are all graduates of the Ateneo. It’s the Jesuit mafia at work! But keeping our limits in mind is good. We are only offering our views from the limits of our own experience.

My experience is primarily that of a journalist.

Indeed, I am wearing black today because today the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other alliances and associations are marking #BlackFridayforPressFreedom, in support of our colleagues at Rappler, the staff at the 54 Catholic radio stations whose licenses to operate have been I think deliberately ignored, and other journalists on the receiving end of the government’s iron fist.  Continue reading

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An assault on press freedom

A 10-part Twitter thread on the SEC decision revoking the certificate of incorporation of Rappler, the social media network. (With a link to today’s column—and an 11th tweet.)



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Column: The ‘handpicked’ hypocrisy of the Rappler lawsuit

Published on March 1, 2016.

I HAVE many friends in Rappler, and I think highly of the work of a good many members of the Rappler staff. In fact, just three weeks or so ago, I found myself in the position of recommending a senior editor from the online-only news organization for a prestigious fellowship.

But I vigorously take issue with Rappler’s decision to sue Commission on Elections Chair Andy Bautista; the case is not only based on a highly selective reading of the facts, but also wrapped, self-justifyingly, deceivingly, in the mantle of freedom of the press and public interest.

What is essentially at issue here is Rappler’s unarticulated assumption that, because it is an online-only news organization, it deserves lead-organizer status in all three presidential debates. Continue reading

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Column: P-Noy’s Kabayan problem, and ours too

Published on July 31, 2012.

President Aquino is wrong to think that the fundamental nature of news has changed. But he is entirely in the right when he calls journalists to account according to journalism’s own standards. Unless, of course, journalists think those standards are only meant to be paid lip service.

“Negativity” in the news—the word the President used in his remarks at BusinessWorld’s 25th anniversary rites last Friday—has become the shorthand defining what an ABS-CBN story online would later call his “scolding spree” against the media, even though the real controversy erupted only after the President directly criticized ABS-CBN anchor Noli de Castro at the 25th anniversary party of the iconic “TV Patrol” newscast, later that same Friday. Continue reading

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Column: Migz replies: Nery out to destroy my reputation

It may be best to think of this piece as the middle part of a trilogy of columns; it responds to the previous column, and it is followed by a detailed counter-response. Published on January 25, 2011.

IN THE last few months and until last week, I had been more or less incommunicado, completing a book project. But I was never completely out of the loop, and when I found out that Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri had written our publisher a lengthy letter in reply to my column on Sen. Loren Legarda and Zubiri’s case at the Senate Electoral Tribunal last week, I asked for a copy. His letter, it turns out, is too long for our Letters page (we cannot accommodate anything more than 3,000 characters long). Instead of sending it back to him to cut it down to the right size, however, I thought of running it here instead. I have done exactly that in previous instances, and I am only too glad to do the same thing for him. Continue reading

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Column: The end of “media” as we knew it

Published on November 23, 2010–the first anniversary of the Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre.

I do not wish to add to the unbearable burden of the families of the victims of the Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre, especially those who lost loved ones who were not media workers, with another reflection on the massacre’s implications on Philippine journalism. The horrific killings—57 bodies recovered, one still missing—reveal more about life in the Philippines than the state of the media: The Philippine polity as an anarchy of families (to borrow Alfred McCoy’s evocative book title); the role of violence in society; the wages of greed; the coopting of much of the country’s security forces; even (in the case of the unfortunate victims who
merely happened to be driving by) the very gratuity of life when you are poor
or not powerful. Continue reading

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Column: Saving Rizal

Published on December 29, 2009.

AT LEAST TWICE A YEAR, I SEIZE THE CHANCE to write about Rizal. As an opinion writer, I have long since come to the conclusion that the Philippines is incomprehensible without reference to the patriot and polymath. I have also belatedly come to realize, in the last two years or so, that Rizal is indispensable to an understanding of the modern democratic project.

One quick example: the classic arguments for a free press are derived from American constitutional history. But I have only lately come to appreciate the difference in Rizal’s own home-grown arguments (and those of Del Pilar too) for freedom of the press.

It is vital, then, to save Rizal both from the “veneration without understanding” that Renato Constantino warned us against a long time ago, and the “understanding without relevance” (to coin a phrase) that alienates younger generations.

* * * Continue reading

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A marriage of, ah, convergence

WAN and IFRA, the two global media associations the Inquirer is a member of, have decided to merge. (I think the newspaper I work for is also a member of two regional conferences, the Society of Publishers in Asia and the Asia News Network.) The explanatory letter, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, is definitely worth a close read.

We are delighted to inform you that WAN and IFRA, the leading international associations for print and digital news publishing, have merged into a new organisation, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The combined new organisation will represent more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3000 companies in more than 120 countries. WAN-IFRA is dedicated “to be the indispensable partner of newspapers and the entire news publishing industry worldwide, particularly our members, in the defense and promotion of press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity, and the development of prosperous businesses and technology.”

The mission statement of the organisation can be found at http://www.wan-ifra.org.

The merger, which becomes effective on 1 July, has been approved by the Boards and the annual meetings of the two organisations. The new organisation will maintain the two current headquarters in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany.

Gavin O’Reilly, the President of WAN and Group CEO of Dublin-based Independent News and Media, will serve as President of the new organisation through 2010. “Both IFRA and WAN are strong organisations providing key services to our industry,” he said. “We believe that combining their strengths will allow us to be even more resourceful and effective in responding to the growing needs of our members and industry partners in the fast-moving and evolving media matrix. This is a necessary merger which, indeed, has been on the cards for some time”.

Horst Pirker, President of IFRA and CEO of Styria Medien AG in Austria, will serve as First Vice President, and become President in 2011. “Like the whole news publishing industry, WAN and IFRA are currently facing serious challenges. I think we need to concentrate our resources to support our members in the best possible way”, he said.

The new organisation will appoint a Chief Executive Officer shortly. In the meantime, the current CEOs of WAN and IFRA, Timothy Balding and Reiner Mittelbach, will jointly manage the merged association.

Members of the respective organisations will continue to enjoy their current benefits and will shortly be informed of the details of the future membership structure. A letter detailing benefits will be sent to you very soon, but if you have immediate questions, please direct them to Ms. Birke Becker (birke.becker@wan-ifra.org).

Any other inquiries you may have to: Larry Kilman, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, WAN-IFRA, Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 00. Fax: +33 1 47 42 49 48. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail: larry.kilman@wan-ifra.org.

We are grateful for your continuing support and are looking forward to working together with you in WAN-IFRA.


Reiner Mittelbach
Timothy Balding

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Columnists’ secrets

poster-columnistv3From the invitation:

In his dissenting opinion on the landmark press freedom case In re Jurado, Chief Justice Reynato Puno (then an Associate Justice) wrote: “As agent of the people, the most important function of the press in a free society is to inform and it cannot inform if it is uninformed.”

A free press does not only inform; it also forms—public attitudes, the public’s appreciation of important issues, public resolve. In short, public opinion.

Opinion columnists bear a great responsibility for that crucial task of formation; the most influential columnists not only provide incisive analysis, they also on occasion do original reporting. In this way, they help shape the climate of opinion, the public discourse that sustains the democratic experiment.

How do they go about their work? What have they learned over the years about the handling of sources? Who do they trust? When they come under severe pressure, how do they cope? And why do they write what they choose to write? Two of the country’s most influential columnists, Jarius Bondoc and RIna Jimenez David, answer these and other questions.

In discussing and documenting their answers, “The Shaping of Opinion” seeks to deepen our understanding of the nature, and the possibilities, of public discourse.

Should be fun!

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Column: Is advertising good for democracy?

Published on November 20, 2007

This week, all roads lead to Subic. The Ad Congress, the advertising industry’s biennial extravaganza — part conference of ideas, part festival of winning works, part street party of loud and lively revelers — begins tomorrow in the former American naval base. At one time one of the biggest military installations outside the United States, Subic is a fitting venue to discuss the power of advertising. After all, what is “projection of force” by forward-deployed units if not advertising in its most fundamental form?

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