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Academic perspectives on press freedom during COVID-19



These are the slides I used at an online lecture organized by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). To watch this lecture, please go to my YouTube channel (
Danilo Araña Arao
Assoc. Prof., UP Diliman | Assoc. Ed., Bulatlat
Special Lecturer, PUP |Editor, Media Asia
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube: dannyarao
Cornerstone of democracy
Allows journalists to report and interpret issues
and events based on professional and ethical
Allows news media organizations to operate free
from government intervention
Key elements
Editorial independence
Ensures informed, critical and empowered
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 2
Five principles (Lambeth)
Mission: To help shape public opinion by
providing relevant information
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 3
Unacceptable: Subjective bias
Acceptable: Inherent bias
Editorials – for or against burning issues
Investigative reports – against wrongdoing
All journalistic outputs – against “fake news”
Neutrality as a myth in journalism
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 4
Bases for choosing sources
Genuine: experts vs experts
False: experts vs idiots
False: truth-tellers vs “fake news” peddlers
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 5
“Virtual pressers” with screened questions
Media accreditation requirement to go to
quarantine areas
Sec. 6 of RA 11469 – penalty for spreading
“false information”
Signing of Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020
Rehiring of a spokesperson who is...
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 6
Mass arresting instead of mass testing
Critique tracing instead of contact tracing
Mass detention and maltreatment instead of
isolation and treatment
Red-baiting of journalists, media groups
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 7
May 5, 2020
NTC’s forced closure of ABS-CBN
Killing of Cornelio Pepino, a radio journalist in
Dumaguete City
16th under Duterte administration
June 15, 2020
Cyberlibel conviction of Maria Ressa and Rey
Santos (Rappler)
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 8
Chilling effect (i.e., who’s next?)
Targeted harassment
ABS-CBN – leading network
Rappler – leading website
Philippine Daily Inquirer – leading daily
Attack on one is an attack on all
Weaponization of laws and the bureaucracy
Attacks become “legal” and “systematic”
Culture of impunity
Reign of tyranny
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 9
“Creative” actions due to pandemic
Parliamentary (e.g., Congress, SC) and extra-legal
Online and offline (with physical distancing and other
safety measures)
Sustained public pressure
Short-term goals
Junk Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020
25-year franchise for ABS-CBN
Push for acquittal of Ressa and Santos
Make schools safe spaces for campus journalism and
mass actions
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 10
Long-term goals
Decriminalize libel
Denounce Red-baiting
End impunity
Fight tyranny
D. A. Arao CEGP (10 July 2020) 11
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