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Why context is divine

It was a dark day for Philippine journalism when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked online news outlet Rappler’s license last January 15. Media outlets and organizations took stands both online and offline—and so have the opposing side. A nation divided again, this time with those writing the stories on the front page themselves.

It may be first instinct to point fingers or shrug off the issue as Constitutional—but face value is human, and this is why context is divine. As Rappler CEO Maria Ressa puts it, “What is publicly stated is not what is privately going on behind the scenes. But that is what journalists do: we will shine the light.” It’s true that what we see is not what we get in national issues, it worsens for us DLSU-D students who feel off the radar.

We must realize that the attacks on journalism are nothing new, with the Rappler case being a foreseeable—if not expected—culmination of the two years of attacks on the media, even from the commander in chief himself. Less than a month after being sworn in the presidency in July 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte sought to “kill journalism” in the country and claimed he was not afraid to attack journalists critical of him. A man of his word, he attests to this in April 2017 by threatening to shut down ABS-CBN for allegedly failing to air his campaign ads, nitpicking Rappler for being “fully owned by Americans” during his second SONA last July, and threatening the Prieto family of the Philippine Daily Inquirer with a plunder case last August.

However, The SEC’s decision to revoke on the grounds of violating the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership may be difficult to dispute, but the Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) in question opens more questions than answers. Defined by the Philippine Stock Exchange as, “a security which grants the holder the right to the delivery of sale of the underlying share,” PDRs are not actually evidence of a company’s ownership as what the SEC is claiming foreign-owned company Omidyar Network to have due to their hold over 5.5. per cent of the media outfit’s shares. Additionally, other media outfits such ABS-CBN and GMA also issuing PDRs from foreign companies, yet the SEC deciding not to review their cases further complicates. The argument that Rappler serves as just one of the hundreds of media outlets in the country should consider the government’s willingness to target an outfit without due process—without forewarning or considering the counter-evidence— is an act reminiscent of decisions the administration has made. And with Rappler’s decry against the administration, the evidence for the efforts of their downfall is deafening.  

As a student-journalist for The HERALDO FILIPINO (HF) for three years now, defending press freedom is no empty promise— talking about these issues isn’t for the aesthetic. but to make it known that even in Cavite, the concerns are still very much alive. Because no matter how geographically far you are from Manila, the SEC office, or Rappler Inc., there is no such thing as “off the grid” when it comes to fighting for the truth.

We will hold the line.

Journalism outlets such as Rappler, CNN, ABS-CBN, and even student publications are the foundations of critical thinking. The press as the Fourth Estate is not an empty moniker, as it is through fearless truth-seeking that we see through the government and become the stepping stone for what we can achieve as a nation. This is why context and access to information is crucial, because before we step into the so-called real world, right now we are students and ultimately members of this University. We shouldn’t wait for those providing information to stand down (or be revoked) before we fight back. Because soon we will be the ones in the frontlines, on the front page, and we must never disappoint those who have provided us with the knowledge to make our own decisions. We must use the freedom we have now to set the foundation for everything to come.

In time, we will be the ones to shine the light. But before that time comes, we must—and we will—hold the line.