WATCH: Cheche Lazaro on the Probe Team and Why a Free Press Matters to All Filipinos
If there's anything the past year should've taught us, it's that we shouldn't take freedom for granted.
Press freedom, in particular, has taken a number of hits: the SEC revoked Rappler’s license in January (a decision that was overturned by the Court of Appeals), while in June, Inquirer.net acquiesced to Senate President Tito Sotto’s request to take down their archived articles on the Pepsi Paloma case.
Unsurprisingly, the Philippines plummeted from 127th to 133rd place on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders, which publishes the index, also noted that the Philippines was the deadliest country in Asia for the media, citing the killing of four journalists in 2017. “Private militias, often hired by local politicians, silence journalists with complete impunity. The government has meanwhile developed several methods for pressuring and silencing journalists who criticize Duterte’s notorious ‘war on drugs,’” the organization adds.
In times like these, it’s good to remember what press freedom means for Filipinos. Cheche Lazaro, veteran journalist and founding president of Probe Productions, Inc., was a pioneer in the budding field of documentary television in the 1990s, working in an industry that had been revitalized following the end of the Marcos era.
“From a technical point of view, press freedom is guaranteed in our Constitution,” Lazaro reminds us. “Press freedom is the ability to express; to say what you want to say without fear of reprisal.”
And press freedom should be valued by all Filipinos, not just the members of the press themselves: “A free press is a necessary component of a democracy. Democracy means we are free to express what we feel, whether it be on social media as it is now, in the television programs that we have, in radio, in print,” she continues. “Some people add the word ‘responsible.’ Again, you define what is responsible. Somebody who’s responsible adheres to the truth and nothing but the truth.”