On punishing the news media, such as ABS-CBN is, for its manner of news reporting by denying it of its franchise (embedded video)

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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

from monarchs

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   

       this   Court

 to    crumble.

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

           but only

              to set 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 

of  an  ignorant  mass.” 

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