By Genalyn Kabiling
Journalists should observe due diligence and fact check their stories after the cyber libel conviction of Rappler head Maria Ressa indicated a case of “bad journalism,” Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque appealed for responsible journalism after a Manila court found Ressa guilty of violating the country’s law on cyber libel.
The court ruling on Ressa and former writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. was in connection with a complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng over an alleged defamatory article.
“You have to be careful with what you report. You have to observe professionalism, at most, diligence, in reporting only the truth. You have to fact check,” Roque said over ANC’s Headstart program when asked about the implication of the 12-year prescriptive period of cyber libel on journalists and other people posting online.
“You cannot call someone a criminal without a decision of the court convicting him for a crime and certainly you need to get the side of the subject,” he added.
Roque insisted that the case of Ressa was not about suppression of press freedom but about accountability. He claimed there was no fact-checking made in the allegations hurled against the businessman in the Rappler story.
“There is no suppression of the freedom of the press. It was a case of bad journalism, it was a case of bad lawyering,” he said.
Roque also took a swipe at Ressa for allegedly presenting a “bad legal defense.” He said she did not lift a finger to prove the absence of malice despite the presumption of malice in law. No evidence was also allegedly presented to show Rappler resorted to fact-checking in the story.
“She did not show that they even got public documents to support their conclusion that Mr. Keng is a criminal,” he said.
Roque also brushed aside speculations that the President had a hand in the conviction of Ressa. He maintained that the President supports press freedom and has not filed any libel case against journalists during his government career. “He does not believe in the use of libel in suppressing freedom of expression,” Roque said.