Malacañang Palace’s recent barring of Rappler journalist Pia Ranada from Palace premises last February 20 has caused alarm among the online community. Many criticized the President for what they saw as an unfair treatment of a journalist and an act suppressing press freedom.
However, many defended the Palace’s action, saying that the President was justified because of Ranada’s “rudeness” when covering events. More recently, however, Ranada was also prohibited from covering a Go Negosyo event last March 6, wherein President Duterte was the guest of honor. Ranada’s ban seems to extend to all events where the President is present–not just the Palace grounds.
The reason for this, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, is the frustration of President Duterte over Ranada. “Ang hindi lang siya pupuwede ay magkaroon ng aaccess ngayon kay Presidente, dahil bwisit sa kanya ang Presidente,” Roque said in an interview on DZMM.
(She is not allowed to have access to the President now, because the President is annoyed with her.)
The Rappler reporter was insistently called out for allegedly reporting “fake news”. “Fake news” can either go along the lines of false information or fabricated truths. Although most of the time, information from fact-based reports that places the one critique in an uncomfortable position is more often than not deemed as fake news—especially from those who support the one in question.
Thus, with an absence of humility and an automatic feeling of denial, aren’t public officials naturally urged to ascribe motives to journalists by calling them out for circulating fake news; especially those who do not take critical reporting or well-founded criticism that well?
The Philippines has always been recognized for its free press. Operations of major newspaper publications and media organizations have always been given free reign over the content they produce. With the rise of fake news and deliberate attacks against media, media companies that subscribe to the highest ethics and standards of journalism are being destabilized, stripped of their meaning in a world where information is a free market for all, stripped of their power to influence amidst trolls and fake news mongers.
Taking away a journalist’s access only incapacitates the people’s ability to filter out the lies and half-truths, and ultimately, the potential to interpret the story untainted. The essence of transparency is lost and the media environment we’re supposed to thrive in only becomes more toxic, egotistic, and even archaic.
This ban against Ranada should not be perceived as a warning for the press to succumb to the mistreatment of the administration. Rather, serving as the check and balance of the government, it should only be a call for journalists to become more vigilant as ever.