Freedom of the press is the uninterrupted right of journalists to air and publish news and information without prior restraint. It is the guarantee by a government of free speech for its citizens and freedom of association extended to members of news organizations.
Was there curtailment of press freedom when the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative's committee on press relations proposed that representatives of news organizations who are not members of the Inec press corps be required to present a clearance from their stations before they could cover the cooperative's meetings and gatherings?
By definition, a press corps is a group of journalists usually stationed in a beat assignment like the Capitol, the City Hall, the Police, the local Courts and other public offices where news and information could be regularly drawn for dissemination.
That public offices are giving media organizations the uninterrupted access to gather news and obtain information that are laced with public interest is what freedom of the press is all about.
From where we sit, the committee apparently wants media practitioners, who do not belong to the press corps, to present an accreditation from their news organizations before they could be allowed to cover Inec events.
The requirement is fair considering that a press corps has been designated to cover Inec activities whenever and wherever they are held. However, had Inec outrightly banned other reporters who do not belong to the press corps from covering its activities, then that's another story.
It defeats the purpose of creating a press corps when other reporters who are not members could freely poach on the beat assignment anytime they want. We should remember that Inec is virtually a beat assignment because information and news materials could be drawn regularly.
But it is not our business to defend Inec's position. We do mind that the issue on press freedom is being taken out of context. How can there be press suppression when all media organizations are represented in the Inec press corps? The members are free to cover and report Inec goings-on without prior restraint or censorship. The reports on radio, print and broadcast can be monitored and evaluated daily whether they appear to be biased for or against Inec.
As we go to press, criticisms are being hurled at Inec officials for their alleged dictatorial tendencies. Is that a suppression of press freedom? In the past, a reporter could disappear without even knowing what hit him.