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Silencing dissent is undemocratic

Despite the arbitrariness of the issue with regards to revoking the rights of Rappler to operate, there are principles that we cannot compromise – democracy and the value of dissent. If we are a country that is truly democratic, shutting down agencies that seek to perpetuate discourse is unjustifiable. We can never forgive a government that dignifies silence towards emerging issues that need public attention and scrutiny.

Last January 11, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a ruling which intends to revoke the certificate of incorporation of Rappler Inc. due to violations of the 1987 Constitutions under the issue of foreign ownership. This move was motivated by the fraudulent transaction between Rappler Holdings and Omidyar Network Fund LLC, the latter is a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife.

Of course, we can never battle but underscore the legalistic grounding of the SEC. But, as an organization that upholds the rights of the media to operate, we can widen the public’s perception about the salient principles that will champion media freedom and mobilization.

Firstly, given the complexity of interpreting media freedom, it is not our obligation to know extent of media operation. Rather, we can focus on how these media platforms operate whether or not they have propelled better understanding of a certain issue, clarified gray areas in prominent claims, reconciled conflicts between crucial societal institutions and gave sufficient directions to know the truth. If these media companies have breached their prime moral obligation to the public, that’s the time when we can demand them to fix their system or mandate absolute closure if the harm is truly grave.

Secondly, the trademark of a democracy is the value of dissent. The threats of fake news, politically driven motives and the rise of populism have drastically changed the country’s political arena by bringing more confusions and divide among the citizens. The greater challenge, moreover, of media companies is to defy all those aforementioned dangers to the democracy. Thus, the only way for us to strengthen our mechanisms to safeguard democracy is to let media companies thrive. In the case of Rappler, though it is appropriate to use the essence of constitutionality to understand the degree of their violation, however, we have to understand that it is more righteous to give them a chance to defend their media rights setting aside any hidden agenda and unfounded condemnations from the public.

At this moment, we can never afford to set aside the principles that ground the importance of media freedom. This era needs more existing platforms to provide the more engagements and discourse among the citizens who are prone to victimization of fake news and political color-stained schemes.  As we are confronted with a grander challenge, we have to build more bridges of information and truth than build more walls that will hinder our understanding of pertinent issues that may have hurt and deprived us of our rights.

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