STATEMENT: LODI on Inquirer’s takedown of Pepsi Paloma stories: “A humiliating case of self-censorship  and a dangerous precedent in time of tyranny”

We in the media and arts alliance LODI express grave disappointment and alarm at the Inquirer’s decision to take down three public interest articles about Pepsi Paloma from its website.

This humiliating case of self-censorship sets a dangerous precedent adverse to press freedom, history and the cause of fighting child abuse in our country.

We salute the Inquirer’s brave journalists who are speaking out against the shameful cave in by the management and editorial board to the demands of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Inquirer’s act is made more lamentable by the fact that no court ordered that the articles be taken down. The bosses of the news organization acted on the basis of a mere demand letter from a politician who misused the letterhead of the Senate Presidency.

What other stories would be taken down, we do not know. But what is clear is that the Inquirer buckled under pressure from a powerful politician who was given a chance to refute reports, dating from years back, that he interfered in a rape investigation, and whose statement was published by the newspaper.

If Sotto could do it to the Inquirer, what’s stopping any other public official from demanding takedowns of articles in other publications that they deem unpalatable like the Pepsi Paloma stories?

Press freedom and freedom of expression is about the people and their agents — journalists — freely and independently reporting on public figures. In this case, Inquirer turned these twin tenets backwards: letting Sotto decide freely what should come out or be taken down in their publication.

The law does not look kindly on take downs, especially those sought by government and the powerful: Only in accordance with the orders of a court, after due process, and with the strictest criteria.

But as we now also know, the rule of law has become optional for Sotto and the president he serves. Tragically, the Inquirer surrendered without a fight.

We in LODI hope the Inquirer management and editorial board would honor their own fighting history as a paper.

We call on journalists, media workers and the public to stay vigilant, and defend our press freedom and freedom of expression. ###

Steering Committee
LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity)
July 5, 2018