Winners and losers

BENIGNO AQUINO III has been in triumphalist mode since 2010 when he handily won the Presidential elections. Succeeding events since have not moved him from that state.

The results of the 2013 mid-term elections have given him something more to crow about, and even more so the 7.8 percent growth of the economy for the first quarter of 2013 which surpassed the International Monetary Fund prediction of 6 percent.

Forget about the power problems in Mindanao, and the increase in the incidence of hunger among the poor, whose legions have not changed for decades. Forget about the high levels of unemployment.

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WITH ONLY six days of sessions left before the 15th Congress adjourns, and despite the optimism of Congressman Lorenzo (Erin) Tanada III, the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill was dead in the water as of this writing (January 24).

Although the House Public Information Committee chaired by Samar Representative Ben Evardone had seen the bill through, getting it into the plenary for discussion had so far been as problematic as the search for the Holy Grail.

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Information control

CONTROLLING THE flow of information—deciding what citizens are told, how it’s presented to them and even determining what they should and shouldn’t know—has always been a critical concern among the powerful. Whether in the Philippines, its neighbors, or in the most backward or most developed countries of the world, the kind of information that reaches citizens is crucial to the outcome of elections, the making of the policies that decide the quality of life of millions, the staying power of dictators, and even the prospects for war or peace.

The entire planet is inundated with tsunamis of information daily, thanks to the international media organizations’ relentless transmission of reports, commentary and images via cable, print and the Internet. The swift advance of information and communication technology has also made national borders of no consequence to filtering information. At the national level, radio, TV and print assail the senses daily in most countries including those yet to achieve the same level of development as Japan and most Western nations.

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State of war

TWO VIEWS of the press, its role in society, and its ethical and professional responsibilities so contradictory the protagonists might as well be from different planets define the relationship between President Benigno Aquino III and those media organizations committed to press freedom and free expression.

From his numerous statements and frequent criticism of the news media, few can escape the conclusion that Mr. Aquino thinks that the press should be the cheering squad of his administration, the policies of which he fancies have curbed corruption and achieved unprecedented economic growth. As in a basketball game—or as in one of those shooting matches Mr. Aquino loves—he would like to hear the press shouting Hosannas each time he thinks he has scored a point.

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Essential and non-negotiable

IN a meeting with representatives of some member organizations of the Right to Know Right Now coalition campaigning for a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Nueva Ecija Congressman Rodolfo Antonino refused to remove the Right of Reply (ROR) rider in a bill on FOI he has introduced in the 15th Congress.

His fellow representatives, said Antonino, want that rider in any FOI act that’s passed to guarantee that if the media were to report anything about them that puts them in a bad light, they would be able to present their side, or to correct an error in reporting. When told that fairness by presenting both sides of a controversy or issue, and in accusations of wrong doing, the alleged wrongdoer’s denial and explanation, is an ethical principle in journalism practice, Antonino flung at the journalists present the charge that media self-regulation doesn’t work, thus the need to compel media fairness through law.

Read moreEssential and non-negotiable