“One of the unsung freedoms that go with a free press is the freedom not to read it.” Ferdinand Mount
By Alex P. Vidal
AS community journalists, we consider it more glorious to go to jail than to be killed like sitting ducks from an assassin’s bullets.
What happened in France as we were preparing for the arrival of Pope Francis here early this month, was unheard of in all the violence related to the practice of free speech and press freedom.
If editors and cartoonists of Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were Filipinos and the paper was published in the Philippines, they would have ended up in the courtrooms, not in the cemetery, for lampooning political and religious icons.
Lampoon is an interesting fabric in a magazine or newspaper.
Abusive military and government officials are tormented in blind items.
In Western Visayas, we have Tya Barang and Snap Flaks in New Express (I started writing for this paper in 1988); Lapsus Calami formerly Lapsus Linguae in Panay News; Tony Mauricio in the defunct Daily Informer; and Lolo Beloy Jr. in Sun.Star Iloilo.
In France they have Charlie Hebdo, not just a column but the entire magazine using cartoons to ridicule prominent political and religious characters.
Except on rare occasions where targets of media criticism resort to violence, critical Filipino journalists are harassed only by onion-skinned characters through libel suits.
Plaintiffs know they have slim chances of wrapping up a conviction against a crusading journalist, but they nevertheless proceed with the judicial option instead of settling matters in a brutal manner.
Automatic rifle-toting gunmen storming an editorial room and shooting editors, reporters, cartoonists, and columnists is unimaginable in this country.
Slaughtering the entire editorial staff right inside the newsroom would be the most abominable act to be committed against members of the Fourth Estate in a democratic state like the Philippines.
It means dealing a mortal blow against the very institution that performs as vanguard of a constitutionally-guaranteed democratic ideal.
Media martyrs in this country are killed by drug lords, gambling lords, rogue cops, corrupt military men and politicians, not because they committed blasphemy and ecclesiastical slander.
When a journalist is murdered, either he was silenced because of an investigative report that would expose anomalies and crimes or for personal motives.
Not because he insulted a religion.
What happened in Maguindanao massacre where more than 30 journalists were killed, can’t be compared to the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath.
Unlike the Charlie Hebdo carnage, the slain Ampatuan journalists were not the real targets.
They were collateral damage.
Because we have laws against libel, enemies of press freedom go to court when they express displeasure and dismay against the “offending” journalists.
The Philippines is still ranked as among the most dangerous countries for crusading journalists, according to the International Organization of Journalists.
We have among the highest mortality rate in terms of violence against media practitioners; and the culture of impunity remains mind-boggling because we are supposed to be the freest and the only Catholic in Asia.
The only consolation is enemies have never commanded a group of maniacs to attack media outlets and execute members of media.