Posted by: Elmer Brabante | May 25, 2009

KINATAY (Thwarting Freedom of Expression)

KINATAY [key-na-tai] – v. Fil. butchered; slain.

I just have a first-hand experience of censorship.  Ironically, it occurs right at the corridors of the College of Law, by no less than the appointed editor-in-chief (EIC) of the Manila Law Journal.

I don’t mind submitting my opinion article under the scrutiny of the EIC.  However, the authority of EIC to edit one’s work has its limitations. The EIC should at all times be wary of censorships as this would be anathema to freedom of expression, one of the emblems of democracy.  To practice censorship is to muddle with democracy.  Thus, when the said EIC castrated my article and showed it to third persons (tantamount to publication) wihout first (at the very least) consulting its author, the EIC becomes guilty of censorship.

Upon confrontation, the EIC managed to profess that as the appointed EIC, she has the “power and prerogative” to edit, censor, and decide what comes out for publication.

The article pertains to  “Back to the Basics” which has been published here.  My vehement contention is the EIC’s indiscriminate tinkering of the last paragraph.  I anticipate (should she insist on her derelicition) the following lines to come out instead of its original form:

“Then, we must pass these tests to achieve our vision.  Students, STUDY IN THE GRAND MANNER – WITHOUT EXCUSES!  Facilitators of learnings (Law Professors), TEACH WITH PASSION AND COMMITMENT!  Our commitment must begin HERE and NOW – right before MLC perish into oblivion.”

That is not the way I write! Definitely, I would not use ALL CAPS coupled with exclamation point unnecessarily.  Worse, the power-tripper EIC had taken the context all wrong.  There are other unfair editing she made in the whole manuscript, but it is sufficient to zero in on the above paragraph.  Her comments maintain that my lines were “reprimanding the professors here!”  She justifies that “We don’t have an edge.  We are not good/exemplary students sir!”   I suggest that she go over the whole article and comprehend its context.

Being a de facto EIC does not give her the blanket authority to edit her Associate Editor’s commentary without the latter’s consent, for such act is a clear attempt to butcher freedom of expression.  Freedom of expression is not absolute, alright.  The Editorial Board may edit its staff’s work when such work, among other grounds, tends to espouse unlawful endeavors,  or endanger a person or property, or promote immorality, or pose a threat to national security, or had been obtained through illegal means.  Even then, there lies a thin gray line between the exercise of editorial prerogative and prior restraint.  In case of conflict between editorial prerogative (aka prior restraint), freedom of expression prevails.  That may be a bitter lesson that we have to take under a democracy.  Absolutely, censorship has no place in a democracy.

Taking a lesson from the dark years under Martial Law, the writers either allowed their works to go under the hatchet blindly or they butchered the butcher himself.


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