[Blueboard] Defending Press Freedom

Office of the President [OP] president at ateneo.edu
Thu Feb 14 08:56:26 +08 2019


[image: Inline image 1]

13 February 2019



Memo to         :           The University Community



Subject            :           Defending Press Freedom





In my statement of 13 October 2017, I had occasion to “call on everyone in
the community to defend our democratic institutions” and to state that
“[t]his call to defend our democratic institutions is not even a matter of
political partisanship or persuasion. It is a call that is borne out of our
conviction about what is right and just and truly democratic.”



While such pronouncements then pertained to government institutions in
particular, the same should be said with regard to freedom of speech, of
expression and of the press. No less than the Philippine Constitution
recognizes “the vital role of communication and information in
nation-building” (Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 24) and “the freedom of
speech, of expression, or of the press” (Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 4).



There are several rights and freedoms necessary for a democratic society to
function. The right to life, the right to due process, the sweet freedoms
of speech and of the press - all of these were once considered sacred,
inviolable. But as of late these have been called into question; mocked,
attacked, degraded.



Rappler, and its brave leader Maria Ressa, have consistently held the line
against the erosion of these liberties. It is journalists like her who keep
us all informed about the state of our nation, covering different areas of
our national life, contributing immeasurably to the wealth and value of our
country. Too often these days, it is they who wage daily battles against
fake news, expose corruption and bring to light illegal practices and
wrongdoing by those who lead us.



We all say we want the truth. It is easy to say we want the whole truth,
but we easily forget how difficult it is to find and convey the truth and
we do little to defend those of us who put their careers, reputations and
lives on the line to give us truth.



Thus, the University expresses alarm over both, on the one hand, the filing
of tax evasion charges against Rappler and the concomitant process of the
need to arrest her (without prejudice to securing liberty through bail),
and on the other, the filing of cyber libel charges against her and a
researcher and their being actually arrested. The tax charge stems from a
complicated legal theory that Rappler is not a news organization and is
instead a dealer in securities.  In turn, the cyber libel charge is for an
article that was published before the passage of the law which punishes the
act charged against them. Beyond the legal arguments is government’s
troubling practice of silencing critics through the filing of questionable
cases.  The pattern of political persecution casts a chilling effect on
legitimate opposition and criticism.



As a university, we are committed to using our resources as educators to
make the truth come to light. As citizens, it is our obligation to defend
the truth. In an atmosphere of fear and silence, we are obliged to speak
when we see things which are not right, even if doing so can bring
individuals and institutions to peril. Speaking truth can be daunting but
the greater imperative is to stand our ground against those who sow fear
when the truth is spoken.



In 2015, Maria Ressa was our Loyola Schools commencement speaker. She
reminded our graduates that, “Power does corrupt, and the way we hold it
accountable is to shine the light. We need to see the way things really
work, the corrupted values that make wrong seem right… Do not accept the
world you see today.”



“Do not accept the world you see today.” The University shares Maria’s
challenge to shine the light on power and be brave in witnessing to the
truth. Veritas liberabit vos. As God is our witness, we believe that the
truth does lead to freedom. The lies and false promises of unbridled power,
when met with silence, will only make us a nation of slaves.





Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ

President


*****************************************
Office of the President
Ateneo de Manila University
Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights,
Quezon City 1108
Philippines
Tel No: 63 (02) 426 6001
Fax No: 63 (02) 426 6079

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