Statement of the Foundation for Media Alternatives, 20 years after People Power I
The Foundation for Media Alternatives adds its voice to the growing national chorus expressing grave misgivings at the issuance of Proclamation 1017 declaring a national state of emergency. Although we grant the State the prerogative to protect itself from unlawful threats, we draw the line when the state itself becomes the threat to democracy and human rights.
We leave it to the lawyers to question the Proclamation’s flimsy legal and factual basis, even as we concur with an initial assessment of the Proclamation being an overreaction of an Administration increasingly eager to quell voices questioning its mandate to govern.
We will not discuss for now the irony that the Proclamation has already been used as a weapon against the citizens’right to peaceably assemble, and in fact became the basis to arrest peaceful marchers commemorating the 20th anniversary of the EDSA People Power I revolt.
What most disturbs FMA — a civil society organization that promotes communication rights as essential to any democratic society — is how Proclamation 1017 poses a clear threat to freedom of expression, media freedom, and other civil liberties essential for exercising the right to communicate.
We note with concern how one of the premises of the Proclamation was how the national media, in its exercise of its duty to report on the issues of the day, had been tagged as a contributing factor to destabilization. We note with skepticism at how the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is already moving beyond its mandate to act as a de facto censor for all anti-government views expressed in media. We view with alarm the explicit threat of outright takeover of private media organizations by the state.
These implicit and actual threats contained in this Proclamation only serve to proscribe media practitioners’ performance of their duty to report the events of the day through the strict and skewed prism of “national security”; this creates a chilling effect on all media which may lead to actual censorship of the press. Furthermore, any curtailment of media freedom will only amount to the erosion of the basic right of citizens to freedom of expression.
The right to communicate flows from the various rights which give citizens and communities the freedom to use the social communication processes available to them in order to construct a socio-political order which embodies their highest democratic ideals.
Proclamation 1017 only serves to further deny this, and will only put the country closer to the edge of the dangerous abyss of authoritarianism.