Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why not say it earlier?

"If they're just going to say that they have no jurisdiction, why couldn't have they said it earlier?"

Atty. Jose Diokno was right asking this in light of the recent court decision dismissing the petition filed by a group journalists and media organizations seeking to prohibit executive branch officials from censoring the media. And while the petition -- filed on March 8 last year 2006 following the infamous Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1017 that resulted in a police raid on a newspaper office and threats against critical media -- is already moot and academic, there is still a threat because of the possibility that the threats and raids (or worse) can happen again.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility is a petitioner.

Journalists to continue suit against press intimidation
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

Thirty seven journalists, the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines, and eight media organizations will appeal a court decision dismissing their petition seeking to prohibit executive branch officials from censoring the media.

The petition was filed on 8 March 2006 following President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1017 on 24 February 2006 which resulted in a police raid on a newspaper office, and threats against critical media.

In a 17-page decision penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, the Court of Appeal's 12th Division on 30 May 2007 dismissed the petition for "procedural deficiencies," stating that the CA is not the proper venue for the petition, which he said should have been filed before the Regional Trial Court.

But the Court said that the actions of the government toward the media following PP 1017 "can be construed as a censure to the exercise of the universal rights of free speech."

"It bears to stress that the clear intention of the law is that no prior restraint can be imposed on the exercise of free speech and of expression, and that the freedom to communicate one's views and discuss any matter of public concern should remain to be so without fear or punishment or liability unless there be a clear and present danger of a substantive evil that the State has a right to prevent," said Judge Reyes.

Following the dismissal, the petitioners will file a Motion for Review (MR) before the Court of Appeals. If the MR is denied, the petitioners will file the case before the Supreme Court.

"We are alarmed and disturbed that the court did not face the issue squarely and (did not) judge it on its merits," lawyer Jose Diokno, member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), said. FLAG's Diokno and Theodore Te are the lawyers of the journalists in the case.

Read more here.

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