“Instead of resisting an assault on the fundamental freedom of the press to decide what to publish, the Inquirer is surrendering the right.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Giving in to the pressure from Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the INQUIRER.net took down three stories about the alleged rape of ‘80s movie actress Pepsi Paloma.
As of yesterday, July 4, clicking the links to the stories “The Rape of Pepsi Paloma,” http://globalnation.inquirer.net/99861/the-rape-of-pepsi-paloma “Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?” http://globalnation.inquirer.net/100369/was-pepsi-paloma-murdered and “Tito Sotto denies whitewashing Pepsi Paloma rape case” http://entertainment.inquirer.net/191427/tito-sotto-denies-whitewashing-pepsi-paloma-rape-case sends readers to INQUIRER.net’s statement, “The articles on the Pepsi Paloma case are currently under review and are temporarily unavailable.”
More than a month ago, Sotto, one of the suspects in the alleged rape of Pepsi Paloma, requested the media outfit to remove the articles published between 2014 and 2016.
Defending its decision, INQUIRER.net said it believes “it is within Sen. Sotto’s right to make this request, citing particularly his claims that the articles contain unverified facts and baseless allegations.”
The move disappointed journalists.
In a text message to Bulatlat, Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, said the incident “demonstrates how easily the corporate media can be pressured by those in power.”
“Instead of resisting an assault on the fundamental freedom of the press to decide what to publish, the Inquirer is surrendering the right,” Teodoro, also chairperson of Altermidya, a national network of alternative media outfits, said.
In the same vein, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) lamented how the online arm of “the newspaper long regarded as one of the beacons of press freedom in the country caved in to the demands of Sotto.”
Founded in 1985, the Philippine Daily Inquirer defied the Marcos dictatorship.
After the fall of Marcos, the Inquirer had been regarded as one of the most independent newspapers in the country. In 1999, the Inquirer stood firm amid the call of former President Joseph Estrada for advertisers to boycott the paper. The Inquirer continued to publish stories critical of Estrada.
It would never be the same again.
The NUJP said July 4 “ will be remembered as one of the darkest days in the annals of Philippine journalism.”
“At a time when freedom of the press and of expression has come under the worst attacks since the Marcos regime, this humiliating self-censorship betrays not only the spirit in which the Inquirer was founded, it betrays a profession whose practitioners have fended and continue to fight off all attempts to muzzle it even if it has cost our ranks 185 lives since 1986,” the NUJP further said.
The NUJP called on colleagues to “resist all attempts to prevent us from fulfilling our duty to serve the people’s right to know and be their watchdog against government’s abuses.”