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The San Juan Star

Freedom Of The Press And Freedom From The Press

By Arturo J. Guzman

June 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The San Juan Star. All rights reserved.

It is reassuring to recognize that for as long as Puerto Rico remains under the protection provided by the Constitution of the United States we are guaranteed freedom of expression and thus, freedom of the press. Similarly, freedom of expression also allows us individually and collectively the right to freedom from the press.

This subtle but fundamental difference between freedom of the press and freedom from the press is what entitles the citizenry of a democratic society to choose who and what publication or electronic media, if any, we may want to select or prefer. In essence freedom from the press allows us to remain free from undue influence and also encourages us to differ publicly or privately from their viewpoints, positions, or reporting. Freedom can only exist if it is reciprocal.

Contrary to editorials or columns in which an entity or individual expresses an opinion, news reporting in the classical sense is exclusively restricted to the traditional tenets of whom, why, when, where, and how. In Puerto Rico, even in the rare times when some or all these previous essential elements are included in a news report, we are also injected with the contaminated personal or corporate economic, political or ideological viewpoints of the reporter, the press, or media source.

As a result of the unprecedented growth of a pro-statehood sentiment in our population during the last three decades many of Puerto Rico leftists devised an agenda to infiltrate the press and media as a means not only to reverse the trend but also to subvert our society, depose the established order, and eventually force by default the separation of Puerto Rico from the United States. These forces have forged an alliance that also includes short-sighted fellow travelers who have allowed their self-perceived electoral, political or economic expediency to prevail over their credibility or professionalism.

As part of their strategy news are not reported but edited. News are manipulated and truth distorted to comply with a preconceived agenda of brainwashing directed to inflict damage, destruction and carry out the character assassination of well defined and intended targets in the pro-statehood leadership particularly the elected or appointed officials of the N.P.P. News are misconstrued to be taken not with a grain of salt, but with an ounce of vinegar.

Try a simple test: How often do we read or listen to a broadcasted sensationalist headline, only to find out later that the news report on the story does not correspond or bear any relation to the headline? How often, when we are fortunate enough to know the truth are the same events reported with omissions that radically alter the nature, scope or impact of the information?

An alarming number in the Puerto Rican press and media, accuses, judges and condemns institutions and individuals often even without a scintilla of evidence publicly thrashing the guarantees provided a citizen’s right to presumption of innocence. Those that are not judged because allegations proved false or are found innocent by a court of law are left alone to ask who is it that gives them back their good name and reputation soiled as part of someone’s agenda. Do these actions denote respect?

These pseudo-journalists do not seem to understand that only those that are respectful of others can command respect, nor accept that in their profession you can be incisive, but well mannered; persistent, but dignified. The hypocrites and demagogues denouncing that fellow journalists are mistreated in the same manner in which they themselves mistreat others selectively remain silent when the few journalists who are not part of their cadre are victims of similar treatment. They are denied an apology for those who sow winds are sure to reap tempests…

Predictably after years of silent retreat under the guise of tolerance and prudence, it appears that the last straw seems to have broken the proverbial camel’s back at least for a significant segment of pro-statehood and N.P.P. followers in our population and they are voicing it in no uncertain terms. I do not necessarily condone the booing that is taking place against some members of the press and media but I must recognize that it is they that have brought this response upon themselves as a result of their vile, disrespectful and unprofessional actions, their repeated lies and defamations, and their transparent agendas.

Neither am I willing to condemn the booing as long as it is loud enough and intended to reach the ears of the owners, publishers, managers and news directors. The message must be clearly conveyed that they are ostracizing, alienating, and vilifying a clear majority of people who are no longer willing to tolerate partial, biased reporting. A clear majority is expressing a rejection of the presumption that they constitute an ignorant and passive audience incapable of identifying and differentiating news from ill-intended prejudices, false premises and deceitful opinions.

For the benefit of our society and the strengthening of true freedom of the press I hope that those who are responsible listen and correct their course. Otherwise this no longer silent majority will be left no recourse but to remind them that as sponsors, costumers, subscribers, advertisers, and consumers they are also capable of breaking another camel’s back.

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