Warning to Media
by Ruby Shaira Panela
Published in the January – February 2011 issue of PJR Reports
Media, media advocacy and journalists’ organizations must keep a close watch on what the country’s lawmakers are doing. They may otherwise wake up one day with laws restrictive of media practice and press freedom already in effect.
Lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan of the Access to Information Network (ATIN) urged the media to actively take part in congressional hearings on bills concerning the media. Otherwise, anti-press freedom laws may be enacted without opposition. He aired the warning during a roundtable discussion on the prospects for the press and the media in 2011 organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
“Without media participation in congressional hearings and deliberations, even those bills intended to enhance press freedom could be transformed into anti-media laws by congressmen hostile to press freedom,” said Malaluan.
Furthermore, said Malaluan, President Benigno Aquino III seems to have reservations about the enactment of a freedom of information (FOI) law, and has not certified its enactment as a priority of his legislative agenda.
Presidential Communications Group Secretary Herminio Coloma, Malaluan continued, claims that among Mr. Aquino’s concerns are the need to protect state secrets, and the possibility that there might be such a deluge of requests for information if an FOI law were enacted that government services might be impaired. But ATIN, said Malaluan, will still address these concerns in its effort to convince Mr. Aquino to support an FOI bill.
ATIN is an alliance of various organizations advocating the passage of an FOI law. Among its members are the Action for Economic Reforms, the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communications, the Ateneo Debate Society, the Ateneo School of Government, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), LIBERTAS, NUJP, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Pagbagago@Pilipinas, and the Transparency and Accountability Network.