Another argument against the Right of Reply is that it’s equivalent to “censorship” and “prior restraint” on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press.
Prior restraint is a form of censorship. It is a legal term referring to a government’s actions that prevent materials from being published. Censorship that requires governmental permission in the form of a license or imprimatur before anything is published constitutes prior restraint every time permission is denied. Prior restraint is an official restriction of speech before publication. The U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully found it to be “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights“.
But one is hard-pressed to find any provision in Senate Bill 2150 or House Bill 3306 which would have the effect of censoring or restraining what can be printed or aired. Where does it say that government approval will have to be secured before publication or broadcast ? It’s a stretch to read this into either version of the bill. Moreover, this is well-nigh impossible in cyberspace.
What MSM is really afraid of is the ruinous consequences a Right of Reply law will have on its finances. It will hit them where it hurts most, on their bottom line. If this is the case, why not come clean and admit that’s it’s really all about the money ? Instead of attempting to advance all these high-minded constitutional arguments which are full of holes.
And what about our long-standing tradition of so-called “self-regulation”, they ask. Well, how effective has it really been ? There’s little evidence that such self-regulation will guarantee adherence to high journalistic standards. It hasn’t stopped the practice of “envelopmental” journalism. All mass media in this country remains beholden to, if it is not actually owned by, special interests. This fact of itself has a “chilling” effect on what is published or broadcast on a day to day basis.
Senator Chiz Escudero, erstwhile author and proponent of the Right of Reply bill, after making a quick volte face when he realized the tide of popular opinion was turning against him, was quoted as saying that “when one is on the side of truth, one does not need to fear media”. But such reasoning can also be applied to media, that if it is on the side of truth, it need not be afraid of the Right of Reply. Truth will always out. Why then is MSM so fearful of the Right of Reply ?