Free but responsible

November 04, 2018

A free press is a powerful weapon in defense of democracy.

In fact, it is a key pillar of a democratic society---the others being an independent Congress, Judiciary, free elections among others.

But like other great powers, press freedom carries great responsibility.

Thus, the admonition for responsible press freedom.

To show that the country recognizes and respects Freedom of the Press as enshrined in the Constitution, two senators have proposed that August 30 of every year be declared as "National Responsible Press Freedom Day."

Senators Bam Aquino and Win Gatchalian, in a twin move, filed their respective bills recently and both have chosen that the birth date of the so-called father of Philippine Journalism and one of the country's heroes, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, be observed and celebrated yearly by the public as press freedom day in the country.

Both Aquino and Gatchalian, in filing Senate Bill Nos. 2040 and 2042, respectively, were in unison in recognizing "the Great Propagandist" and "Mastermind of Filipino Revolution" as the embodiment of press freedom in the country.

The constitutionally-guaranteed provision on press freedom in Section 4, Article III of the Bill of Rights, not only includes the right to speak and write but also the right to be protected from threats, intimidation and violence, Gatchalian said.

"If favorably passed into law, it will remind us of the patriotic deeds of Del Pilar and inspire people to emulate his example of selfless service, exceptional courage and leadership that gave hope to our Motherland during a critical time in our country's history," he said.

"The 'Marcelo H. Del Pilar National Press Freedom Day' will also heighten awareness about press freedom so that the people of the press will not be afraid to report matters of public interest no matter whom or what interest gets hurt in the process," the lawmaker added.

For his part, Aquino said such declaration will serve as a "reminder for all of us that in times of repression, one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal is our voice, as proven by his example."

"A fearless, free and objective press is especially important during these times fraught with alternative facts and misinformation," said Aquino.

An advocate for equal opportunity, representation and freedom, Del Pilar, a prolific writer from Bulacan who used the pen name "Plaridel", sought to increase awareness about the plight of Filipinos during the Spanish colonial period through the power of the written word.