Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Proclamation 1017 creates a 'chilling effect'

Vol. 1 Issue No. 107 | Monday | February 27, 2006

"Proclamation 1017 creates a 'chilling effect'-and that may be its
intended purpose"

Maria Ressa
ABS-CBN vice president for news and public affairs

THE mass media entities were the first to bear the brunt of
Proclamation 1017 and its General Order No. 5, leading not a few to
wonder aloud why, if there was indeed a "right-left conspiracy" to
violently overthrow the Arroyo government, why aren't any of the
supposed rebel officers being taken in, with the exception of Scout
Ranger chief Gen. Danilo Lim? While Ferdinand Marcos quickly trotted
out before the world several rebel officers allegedly caught in a
failed coup against him just before Edsa 1 erupted, President Arroyo's
men have so far only managed to detain Lim in quarters, subsequently
arrested former police general Ramon Monta�o; then used old cases
against two supposed conspirators-party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran and
former senator Gregorio Honasan.

The government justified the crackdown on media thusly: the media has
been a tool, continues to be a tool, of destabilizers. Who these
enemies of the state are, it isn't clear-so why are the journalists
who cover them first on the firing line, as witness the raid on the
Daily Tribune newspaper and the National Police's warning it will take
over others that don't follow "government standards."

For a clearer insight on how news executives view the media's role,
rights and relationship with the State in this crisis, BusinessMirror
correspondent Honey Madrilejos-Reyes interviewed Maria Ressa, ABS-CBN
vice president for news and public affairs, and former CNN bureau
chief in Jakarta .

What are the broad implications of the proclamation for the mass
media? Its implications on freedom of speech, which is the highest
value in the bill of rights/democracy?

First, the media are included as one of the reasons for Proclamation
1017: "Whereas, the claims of these elements have been recklessly
magnified by certain segments of the national media."

This means the media have already been judged. The question is by whom
and by whose standards? This was a question I posed to the National
Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last Friday when they asked us to
come in for a meeting. The response I got was that the NTC is merely
the body tasked to implement this proclamation with media. That is no
answer at all.

We repeatedly asked for guidelines and were told KBP will help develop
those points along with the NTC. That is an unsatisfactory answer
because it means the government can take action against media
organizations now without having to explain itself.

We also pointed out that foreign media will continue to report what
they see. This will create a schism between local and foreign press.
Why are we creating different standards? Why should local journalists
follow? I am also personally caught in a quandary because I continue
to report for CNN and other foreign media groups even as I head
ABS-CBN News. Does that mean I can write something for a foreign media
outfit but not put it to air here?

The NTC called for open dialogue and appealed for fair and balanced
coverage. If that is all it wants, then there is no problem and no
need for this proclamation. For ABS-CBN, being fair and balanced are
key elements of our Standards and Ethics Manual.

You cannot have freedom of the press if you curtail that freedom.
There is no middle ground. You either have a free press or you don't.

The watchdogs have become the watched. Who will now watch government?

Proclamation 1017 creates a "chilling effect"-and that may be its
intended purpose. That is why it's important that journalists define
boundaries we cannot cross and still call ourselves journalists.

We at ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs are professional journalists. We
will continue doing our jobs in line with our Standards and Ethics

How will the media now be able to report the news in its entirety,
given that a lot of what we say might be construed as "inciting to
sedition"? Could we even interview the political opposition?

I think it's even more important to interview as many sectors of
society as possible.

As journalists, we need to be more vigilant during times of national
crisis. But those times are also when public demand for accurate,
timely information increases. We aim to fill that demand. We at
ABS-CBN will not censor our reports.

What are the checks that we have at our disposal?

As the proclamation stands right now, the power is all on the
government side with little accountability. What do we have on our
side? Truth and justice-those are universal ideals which cannot be

How do you see Philippine media acting under these circumstances? How
will this affect reportage?

It has already had a "chilling effect" on some, and I think we in
media are watching closely to see what will happen next.

A newspaper office (Tribune) has been raided. What if the same happens
to a broadcast entity-what will the KBP do about it?

You should ask the KBP. I think it would be a mistake for the
government to shut down any broadcast organization. The signal that
sends out would be damaging for our country both domestically and

Kindly confirm reports that there are soldiers guarding ABS-CBN.

Since this is print, I can say yes, there are soldiers guarding
ABS-CBN. But that is something I can't air on ABS-CBN nor ANC after
the NTC meeting Friday.

Having covered all the coup attempts in the past (and having been
stuck in this building in 1987 when it was PTV 4), I know it's
standard practice to send the military to guard military and broadcast
installations when there is any threat of a coup.

However, Proclamation 1017 could make me interpret this move in a new

Where does this put your organization, considering the Lopez family
and its businesses have in the past been at the receiving end of
similar treatment from the Marcos regime?

There are many rumors that ABS-CBN is a target and will be shut down.
If that happens, it's not because we are not doing our jobs as
journalists. We will take appropriate measures.

How will this affect (if any) your organization's news gathering?

It renews and further ignites my organization's sense of mission.

COPYRIGHT (c) 2005 Philippine Business Daily Mirror Publishing, Inc.

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