Andanar says arrest of Maria Ressa has '' no chilling effect'' on press freedom
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Saturday said the arrest of Rappler chief executive officer (CEO) Maria Ressa for cyberlibel has no "chilling effect" on the country's press freedom.
In a radio interview over the state-run Radyo Pilipinas dzRB, Andanar said there is a "paradox of ironies" in Ressa's claim and arguments regarding the libel case against her.
"What is really important here is that we have thousands of media workers in the Philippines. If you ask every media worker, 'Is there a chilling effect? I don't think so'," Andanar said.
"If you wilL ask Cagayan de Oro Press Club, National Press Club, Butuan Press Club, Surigao Press Club, I don't think they will (see a chilling effect in the country's freedom of the press)," he added.
The communications secretary also denounced the international media who expressed concerns on the effect of Ressa's case to press freedom.
"Before the international media make their judgement, they should go here and talk to the media men. (M)y question is, have you (international media) even contacted Mr. Keng? Did they get Mr. Wilfredo Keng's side because if not, they are not working as really objective journalists.
(T)hey're already violating the journalists' code of ethics," he said.
"To say that this administration is killing (the) press freedom is really wrong and it is the one disinformation for the country," he added.
Andanar claimed that he also faced a libel case issued against him before he entered President Rodrigo Duterte's administration as the secretary of Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
"In 2016, it was June when the President announced that he was going to appoint me as a Secretary of the PCOO. A few weeks after that, a libel case was filed against me and even. I still have to travel all the way to Laguna, to Pangasinan to face my accuser and to clear my name, Andanar explained.
He emphasized that every reporter have equal rights as journalists, stating that no law grants "priority to media men."
"I am proud to have been accused of libel, because they said it's a badge of honor for every journalist and broadcaster. (What) I'm saying is that Ms. Ressa is no exception to the rule - all of us are not above the law," he said. Cristina Eloisa Baclig/DMS