climb

(re)press(ed) freedom

in my recent life as a bachelor living on his own, i have managed to refuse the luxury of television for a time longer than i expected. the only chance that i get to see any television at all is when i am at the gym. but then i only get to see moving pictures, with no sound. so i feel i am a little disconnected, not really knowing what's going on, and my only access to the world outside my own is online news. i mostly go to inq7.net or gmanews.tv, and they both provide me with a keen sense of what the world is up to.

a few moments ago, i checked the breaking news section of inq7 and i found an article where lee kuan yew dismissed singapore's low rank in the press freedom index, published annually by the reporters without borders. he explained that there is nothing in singapore that you cannot read. i took an immediate interest in the article because i lived in singapore for a very short while, and will be visiting the city-state again next month. i tended to agree with the index in its description of singapore, and the general perception that press people are generally given less freedom in that country. then i thought about how the philippines fared in the survey. and to my shock, i found my country no more than 2 places ahead of singapore.

i found this utterly unbelievable, and then i realized that the ranking is the result of a survey of journalists and other persons involved in issues of press freedom. the low score does not accurately show the amount of press freedom we enjoy relative to those of other countries in the ranking. but rather, it is a general perception of those affected by regulations of the right to free expression. i have never really felt that we are anywhere near singapore in this sense because i do not feel constrained, and i have never really felt that i didn't have access to certain information because of curtailment. trouble is, our own journalists are themselves giving this impression to the world, because looking at previous indexes, the philippines didn't fare better.

but then it's not my place to say this, one reason why the survey didn't include me at all. the nearest i got to being involved in press freedom was when i wrote for the college paper. it just feels awful to be regarded as a place where little freedom is allowed, when to my mind, the freedom of expression is well-exercised here, and i can compare my own views to my experience outside the country. of course, the issue of journalists being killed is something else. i wonder what cecil's take on this is.
Hi Alman
I find this sentence of yours odd:

"the low score does not accurately show the amount of press freedom we enjoy relative to those of other countries in the ranking. but rather, it is a general perception of those affected by regulations of the right to free expression"

shouldn't the general perception of those affected by regulations of the right to free expression, be the most accurate in informing the world the state of press freedom in the country?

Also this:

"to my mind, the freedom of expression is well-exercised here, and i can compare my own views to my experience outside the country. of course, the issue of journalists being killed is something else."

The likelihood of journalists being killed because of what they had written and the level of press freedom in the country -- are they not one and the same thing? Can there be a greater form of censorship than this?

Re: Hi Alman
Hi Fabs. My surprise really stems from the fact that we didn't do much better than Singapore, where the most vocal newspaper is more tame than the Manila Bulletin. The statement above is my way of rationalizing why we got a low score when in fact in my opinion, the level of free expression here is at par with some very developed democracies. Not being a journalist, I have a different view. That statement is in reaction to the fact that our score is comparable to Singapore, when in fact, I think we're far ahead.

With regard to the second statement, I think that they are entwined, but still separate. To be very technical about it, censorship is prior regulation by the State. The killings are not always attributable to the State, and not even to State actors, but to individuals, most of the time local politicians. So yes, there is repression after the fact, but our laws do not, at the onset, state that you cannot write about this or that. That is the basis of my observation. But I agree, there is no greater form of repression than the killings.

I think I just set myself up for a debate. Not with you! Wrong move. :(
In the Philippines as well as in the United States, you can write pretty much what you want, short of advocating armed rebellion. You can call Gloria Arroyo and George W. Bush corrupt, you can call them murderers or dictators without a shred of evidence, secure in the knowledge that at the end of the day, you will be able to go home and sleep securely. That is one admirable thing that we share with mature democracies. I don't think you can do this in Singapore -- attack Arroyo or Bush there, yes, but not Lee. He will sue you for libel and the courts will award him hefty amounts for damages, leaving you with just the shirt off your back. Read the Straits Times and compare their handling of domestic, as opposed to regional, or international, issues.

Provincial journalists in the Philippines, where most of the killings occur, operate in a different environment. They can also criticize Arroyo and Bush without fear of retribution. But since all news is local, they write about local officials and affairs. Maybe they even try to extort money from their subjects. But because we are at a different stage of development from the United States, both economically and in terms of law enforcement, the local satraps who are the targets of their criticism/extortion can, and sometimes do, act with impunity.
Thanks Cecil
So if we can write pretty much what we want, why did we score so low in the survey? Did you participate in the survey?

Thanks for your views. I wanted to know the opinion of an insider. :D
Re: Thanks Cecil
It's because of the killings of course, but as you correctly said, few of these can be attributed to the State.

No, I did not. Reporters Without Borders, if I am not mistaken, is run by unreconstructed European communists. I hate these pontificating bastards :)