The ban extends to any journalist who would write or broadcast anything that the President deems to be ‘fake news.’
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Three days before the World Press Freedom Day, 41 journalists filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to lift President Rodrigo Duterte’s ban against Rappler.
In a petition for intervention, journalists from print, online and broadcast media argued that the ban “abridges the freedom of the press.” Journalists, they said, are entitled to freedom of the press as stated in Section 4, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
“The guarantee prohibits any law from being passed that abridges press freedom. In the same vein, it also prohibits overbearing and over expansive exercise of executive power that trenches on press freedom,” the petition read.
Among the petitioners were Florangel Braid, one of the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution; veteran journalists Inday Espina-Varona, Ceres Doyo, Marites Vitug, Tina Monzon-Palma; Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility’s Melinda Quintos-de Jesus and Vergel Santos; talk-show hosts Winnie Monsod and Lourd de Veyra as well as broadcasters Atom Araullo, Raffy Tima and Mariz Umali.
Former UP College of Mass Communication Dean Luis Teodoro and UP journalism professor Danilo Arao, also associate editor of Bulatlat, are also among those who signed the petition.
The petitioners pointed out that the ban constitutes “content-based prior restraint.” They noted that the ban was imposed without a substantial government interest other than the President’s disagreement at how the news was reported.
Citing the Chavez v. Gonzales jurisprudence, the petitioners said there are only four types of expression that may be subject to prior restraint: pornography, false or misleading advertising, advocacy of imminent lawless action and danger to national security. All other expression, the said ruling states, is not subject to prior restraint and absolutely protected from censorship.
They added that while they have not been physically barred from reporting on the President’s activities, the ban extends to any journalist who would write or broadcast anything that the President deems to be ‘fake news.’
The petitioners also maintained that the ban creates a chilling effect on other journalists as journalists are being punished for the content of their reporting.
The journalists are represented by former SC Spokesperson Theodore Te.
Nine Rappler reporters filed a petition, April 11, asking the high court to stop the ban on coverage, saying it violates constitutional guarantees of press freedom, free speech, due process and equal protection.
The ban started in February 2018 when Duterte prohibited Rappler’s Palace reporter Pia Ranada and CEO Maria Ressa from covering Malacañang and the President’s events. The following month, the ban extended to all their reporters and correspondents in the provinces.
Duterte had publicly accused Rappler of peddling fake news for its critical reportage on Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs.”
DISCLOSURE: The author is among those who signed the petition for intervention in support of Rappler.