On punishing the news media, such as ABS-CBN is, for its manner of news reporting by denying it of its franchise (embedded video)
To quote a 1995 dissent from then Justice Puno (later Chief Justice) when the then majority of the justices voted to punish for contempt a columnist who exposed corruption among judges :
“A brief revisit of the history of the struggle to protect freedom of the press ought to be enlightening. It will remind us that freedom of speech and freedom of the press (footnote 4) are preferred rights (footnote 5)
for they are indispensable preconditions for the exercise of other freedoms. (ft 6)
Their status as the cornerstone of our liberties followed the shift of sovereignty
to the masses — —- the people.(ft 7)
For the people to be truly sovereign, they must be capable of rendering enlightened judgments
and they cannot acquire this capability unless they have an unclogged access to information,
the main pipeline of which
is the press.
Early enough, Madison had the prescience to warn that “a popular government
without popular information or
the means of acquiring it
is but a prologue
to a farce or tragedy or perhaps both.” (ft 8)
“The history of press freedom will also reveal that while its importance has been given lip service, its unabridged exercise was not won without
a costly struggle. Ironically, the attempts to restrict the newsmen’s pen came from government itself.
The attempts were disguised in different insidious forms. (ft 9) They came as sedition laws which sent newsmen behind bars. They came as tax laws which impoverished newspaper publishers. Through long, difficult years, the press survived these assaults.xxx
“ xxx Respondent is a columnist and he does not only write straight news reports but interprets events from his own distinct prism of perception. As a columnist and like any other columnist, he has his own predilections and prejudices and he bends his views in accord
with his own slant of faith.
I see no reason to penalize respondent for the slants
in his views, however, unpleasant and irreverent they may be to the court. When we start punishing
a columnist for slants
in his views,
we shall soon be seeking
to look for
among them. “xxx it is not every falsehood that should incur the Court’s ire,
lest it runs out of righteous indignation.
Indeed, gross falsehood, vicious lies, and prevarications of paid hacks cannot deceive the public any more than
they can cause
If we adopt the dangerous rule that we should curtail speech to stop every falsehood we might as well abolish freedom of speech
for there is yet to come a man whose tongue tells only the truth. In any event, we should take comfort in the thought that
falsehoods cannot destroy —
only truth does
toset us free.
“xxx As agent of the people, the most important function of the press in a free society is to inform
and it cannot inform if it is uninformed.
We should be wary
when the independent sources of information
of the press dry up,
for then the press will end up printing “praise” releases and
that is no way
for the people to know
the truth. xxx …
the majority (justices’ ) opinion will weaken the press as an informed and informative source of information of the sovereign people. In so doing,
it will unwittingly erode
the people’s right to discover the truth.
The protection we give
to the sanctity of the sources of information of the press
is for the benefit of the people.
It is designed
to benefit all of us,
keep us above
the cloud of ignorance. Democracy cannot bloom where sovereignty is rooted on the top soil