Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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As a media practitioner, I love the fact that democratic countries, in general, protect our right to express our opinions about various issues and
beliefs, either through writing or speaking, or to interpret information we gathered in the course of doing our work. In practicing our profession as
journalists, being members of a democratic society has great advantages. First, we expect no interference from our own government, even if we
are opposed to certain actions or pronouncements emanating from it or any of its agencies. Our right is protected by the Constitution, limited only
by laws on personal defamation and laws that protect national interest. Second, we don’t expect any form of penalties that degrade our person or
put us in prison indefinitely. Yes, we are fortunate to be citizens of a democracy, such as the United States of America.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees that right:
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition
the Government for a redress of grievances.”
And, the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights follows this principle when it says:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek,
receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers"
But in the case of governments so unlike ours, our fellow journalists have to watch what they say or write, for their lives are always on the line.
The case of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi brought much sadness and anger to me and, I am sure, to most journalists worldwide.
Evidence pointed to his brutal murder when he entered the Saudi Embassy in Turkey more than a month ago. Khashoggi was a columnist for The
News reports highlight Khashoggi’s take on the type of media the Arab world has. Khashoggi’s last column wrote about the lack of freedom of the
press therein, and his call for the need to reform the existing situation. Whatever results the ongoing investigation on his brutal murder come up
with are, Khashoggi is never coming back to life. And the fact that he disappeared inside his own government’s embassy, speaks volumes of the
way opposing ideas are handled by an all-powerful ruler. I just hope and pray hard that justice will prevail and that whoever is behind this crime
will pay the ultimate price for his deed.
I must confess I don’t really believe 100 percent that in a democracy, media practitioners are protected by the Constitution. I don’t want to go into
detail as to how the media is being trampled by the present Trump administration because Americans are already very aware of what’s going on.
How else should I picture President Trump’s hatred of the American media when earlier this year, he tweeted that outlets such as the New York
Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN are not his enemy but “the enemy of the American People”? Any criticism of this president is never accepted at
the White House. It’s appalling that the White House, the building that represents the home of the most powerful man in the world, the “choice” of
the American people, has become a palace for someone who resembles a monarch of old.
At least Americans have the next opportunity to change the situation when the presidential elections come up!
Tribute to Filipino Media people who died in the course of doing their duty
The Philippines is also a democratic nation, whose Constitution was patterned after the American Constitution as regards to freedom of the
press. But this right has been ignored many times by people who use violence to silence media personalities. My original country has been
dubbed the deadliest country for journalists, second only to Iraq.
I am not proud of this label because I love my country of birth more than any other place in the world. But I just have to look at why this is
happening. “Power corrupts,” as everyone knows, and to keep one in power, all other opposing forces must be “deleted,” in media/computer lingo.
November 23, 2018 was the 9th anniversary of the so-called Maguindanao massacre, where 58 people were killed and buried in mass graves,
including 34 journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called the Maguindanao massacre the single deadliest event for
journalists in history. These media people were accompanying Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu to the Commission on Elections to file his
candidacy against Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of then Maguindanao
governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. Mangudadatu thought that with journalists in tow,
his life would be protected, as he had received death threats before. As it
turned out, ALL accompanying Mangudadatu, including his wife and sisters,
were massacred. To this day, the families of victims have yet to find justice.
There are other cases of broadcast people and reporters in various provinces
killed in the line of duty; but sadly, as of today, still unresolved.
I am saddened by all these, but I don’t regret being a journalist myself. It is still
worthwhile to do something you love: writing and speaking your mind. I truly
admire and respect journalists who are courageous enough to expose bad
eggs and bad deeds in government. Your bravery is well-noted, Just be very
careful…do take care that you don’t get “deleted.”