Maria is not the face of journalism
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - February 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Just because Maria Ressa is a journalist critical of President Rodrigo Duterte does not make her arrest on charges of cyber libel an indication that media repression has descended on the Philippines. Libel, in whatever medium it is committed, is defined very clearly by law and excuses no one. You commit it, you have to answer for it, just like everyone else for all other crimes.

To those who are quick to defend Ressa, inspired by nothing more than the romantic twang of anything media, pray cite any instance when repression of the media has ever been launched, officially or unofficially, by this administration. There is no systematic picking up of journalists in the dead of night, or the brutal state-sanctioned murder of anyone with a pen or camera.

Sure, there had been testy run-ins between pushy and misguided journalists who do not know the limits of their responsibility and over-zealous but misinformed factotums out only to please their bosses. But for a supposedly "world-class" journalist like Ressa to cry repression is, to me, the worst kind of self-interest-driven twisting of facts. This is fake news most foul.

Ressa is not the only critic of Duterte in media. But nobody else is getting picked up. Nobody else is getting arrested. Why? Because nobody else is committing a crime. This is not to say Ressa committed one. But that is something she will have to defend herself in court because a charge for the crime of libel has been filed against her.

Ressa, if she has any moral honesty, cannot claim repression because she is not getting thrown into a dungeon and there left to rot. Her arrest and the charges filed against her are all legal and democratic processes that allow her to have her day in court and disprove what she has been accused of. Where is the repression in that? She should be thankful instead.

The problem with Ressa is she has prima donna tendencies and thinks the world owes her for being a journalist. Well, I too am a journalist and have been for nearly 40 years. I too have been very critical of public personalities, from presidents to barangay captains. But I have never been earnestly pursued legally or even threatened physically.

And it is not because I am far more obscure by comparison to Ressa. It is because I have never pursued anyone beyond the facts, what is fair, and what reason allows. When you chew Duterte for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and even while in a fit of indigestion from the seat of your toilet bowl later, you become a journalist with only one commitment --destruction.

But journalists do not go out destroying people and reputations because, like all regular people who hold jobs, journalists are supposed to work for the greater good. And those who work for the greater good are never arrogant, who consider those who dare deny a story as an affront to a journalist's self-esteem when all it really means is a desire to air their side of the story.

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