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Drop the press freedom angle

Let me put it this way: Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s decision against Rappler nor its reporter Pia Ranada who was barred from the Malacañang press coverage is a case of a loss against press freedom.
This is much too clear, although critics, especially the Rights Groups and other press groups that just like to claim that the press has been shuttered by government, will of course take full advantage and make this seem as a case of government clamping down on press freedom.
“It could portend a broader assault on journalists and news organizations, whose critical watchdog role has magnified the government’s poor human rights record,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
President Duterte’s move to ban a critical news website reporter from covering the presidential palace is a threat to press freedom, rights and media groups insist.
Seriously, why and how so? The fact that Rappler and its reporters have been banned from the Palace? When was it ever a loss of press freedom when a reporter is banned from the Palace press conferences or presidential coverage?
The SEC decision was not a case against press freedom, since Rappler has a foreign component which is not allowed by the Constitution, which clearly states that media must be 100 percent owned by Filipinos.
Besides, Rappler never divulged to SEC that there was this foreign entity that gave $1 million, and one that is known to tap online media establishments to write negative stories against the administration they want toppled. The foreigner was involved in the ouster of Ukraine’s leader. It has control over Rappler through its veto power.
Ranada said what was done to her by the Palace is prior restraint.
No it is not, because she, and even Rappler itself continue to operate, while its reporter is free to write whatever she wants — including writing critical articles against President Duterte. She has not been barred from writing her news articles, nor has Rappler been closed down by government.
So where are censorship and prior restraint in all this?
And isn’t press freedom still alive and kicking in the Philippines? The last time I looked, another critical TV station quickly had the incorrigible coup plotter Sen. Antonio Trillanes as guest, to ensure that the story on the frigate deal,which should be a dead issue, keeps going, again claiming he has proof that President Duterte himself intervened in the deal. So who believes him? The yellows, who know what Trillanes is up to, and are part of the coup plot against Duterte?
So Rappler reporters are no longer welcome to cover Palace press conferences attended by the Malacañang press corps, where Ranada was a member. So she was barred. That makes her being banned from covering the president a press freedom fight?
That’s portraying something which is false and Rappler and other news media know this to be a fake issue being raised by Rappler, its allies, and of course, the usual Rights groups that take everything these critics of President Duterte state as gospel truth.
Rappler and its reporters certainly know that being accredited by the Palace or any other democratic country is a privilege extended by government agencies to beat reporters. It is not a right that some journalists seem to believe is their god-given right as journalists.
If journalists have to be accredited by the Palace to cover Malacañang, then the Palace has the right to remove that accreditation, no matter what the reason is.
It may be a petty reason, or even an unreasonable one, but it cannot be denied that it is the right of the Palace, or any government agency, whether it is the Senate, or the House, or any other office, to grant reporters covering a certain beat the privilege of covering their office.
What they grant, they can take away and that is the truth.
So where again is the case of press freedom?
Rappler and its reporters may be banned from covering the press conferences as well as the covering the President and his speeches or anything he does by way of official duties and acts. There is nothing to stop Rappler and other critical journalists from writing their stories by watching the government TV that carries the President’s activities live, or they can do live streaming and write as critically as they want against Duterte. Again, where’s censorship and prior restraint?
Besides, Rappler and its reporter are not being honest. They do not usually get their stories from what is strictly stated in a presidential coverage.
To cite an example. The Palace claimed “fake news” on Rappler’s story on Bong Go, Duterte’s special assistant, being involved in the Frigate deal, certainly was not from Malacañang or its press conference coverage. Rappler based this story on claimed documents supplied by, naturally, leaks from the dissenters. This was proved during the Senate hearing. It was made very clear in that hearing that Bong Go played no part in that frigate deal except to pass on a complaint to the proper agency.
Time for Rappler and yellow supporters in media to grow up. Not all media persons are buying their being the victims.

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