I am wriing to express my views on the mainstream media coverage of the recent libel verdict against Maria Ressa.
What went wrong? For one, the mainstream media put too much emphasis on the conviction while leaving out an important fact, that the libel case was filed by a private individual Willy Keng. Private individuals are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, especially in the court of public opinion.
They are not public personalities contemplated by the speech freedoms against which unnamed sources can be cited. They have the right to reply and as such, their side needs to be heard. Vital questions need to be answered. Did Rappler gave Keng the opportunity to properly rebut the allegations that the publication could not prove by citing the proper sources, neither could it properly elaborate on the charges levelled by the sources. This set of facts may have been omitted from coverage. Was it to protect Rappler? Was it to cover up the tendency of many lazy journalists to do the same?
Failing to elaborate on the facts surrounding the Keng complaint was mainstream media's biggest mistake, in my view. As readers, we will need to be more discerning over what we read. Unfortunately, the reality we face is that emotional virality trumps facts, and these facts suffered at the hands of the mainstream media. The real chilling effect, in my view is that private individuals besmirched by media outlets will now be inhibted to file libel cases since they will be accused of "killing democracy"