MV Editor Attacks Transparency-Free Speech Website

September 30, 2012

To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. –Frederick Douglass

Zaldy Dandan wrote an editorial in the Marianas Variety attacking the CNMI LeakSource site. It seems odd since most in the newspaper business support all valid forms of free speech. Also, odd is the fact that a newspaper editor would attack an anonymous site in a place (the CNMI) where standing up can have a devastating impact. How many people have lost their jobs because they had the courage to tell the truth? How many people fled the islands because of threats? I raise my hand, having been one such person!

Why is CNMI LeakSource a good thing? Because those who are afraid to stand up for what is right, to expose the truth can download documents anonymously at no risk to their government jobs, at no risk to inciting family problems and at no political or personal risk. They are totally safe in revealing the truth.

Calling people "cowards" if they want to expose the truth with no risk to themselves is wrong. Are the law enforcement agencies that have anonymous tip lines also "cowards"? Are the people who submit the tips "cowards"? I think not.

Why is Zaldy even comparing an anonymous website to a newspaper?  Why does he think every source of news should resemble a traditional newspaper?  Zaldy wrote:
Anyone can post anything on the internet, but a newspaper has to conduct due diligence before publishing a story. Even sources who want to be “anonymous” are known to the reporter/editor. The authenticity of documents handed to us are verified. Whatever claims they make have to be double-checked. We also need to get the other side of the story. 
A few points. It is true that anyone can put anything on the internet, but intelligent readers know how to distinguish truth and fiction.  Furthermore, the CNMI LeakSource clearly states that they will only publish tips with valid documentation.

An anonymous website challenges readers to demand more information either from the government agency or office that was exposed, or from the person who was the subject of the leak.  It inspires traditional news media to do their job.  In fact, why didn't the CNMI's traditional press reveal that  the Saipan mayor avoided a court appearance?! Avoiding a court summons is unethical and unlawful for any person, but for an official it is inexcusable. Ditto for the other leaked court documents exposing just how unethical some CNMI legislators or candidates are.

The argument that posting documents does not show both sides of a story is invalid. Having the information allows people the chance to investigate the facts and determine the truth. What newspaper editorial shows both sides? Were the authors of the CNMI LeakSource invited by Zaldy to give their side of the story? Read Zaldy's editorials and you know where he stands politically and even his personal views on issues.

Zaldy even called some leaks "character assassination". In his editorial he cited the DEQ official who was arrested in American Samoa for a driving violation. Sure it was a driving violation, but it also made headlines in American Samoa and did nothing to improve the already tarnished reputation of the CNMI. Zaldy failed to mention that the CNMI official was representing the CNMI on official government business on a taxpayer-funded trip. He failed to mention that she was not just pulled over for speeding, but was also arrested for DUI. Luckily, as the article on the website related, she got off with probation and a fine.

Zaldy claims that people should submit anonymous tips to the newspapers. Some people do not trust newspapers to keep what they have to report anonymous, especially in the CNMI where everyone wants to dial up on the coconut wireless. Submitting a court document to CNMI LeakSource that was not even covered by the traditional CNMI press, including the newspapers, is a valid way to expose the truth.

Zaldy attacks those who hide behind an anonymous identity, but the Marianas Variety publishes comments posted by anonymous individuals. Guess they are "cowards" too?

My family and I experienced living hell for exposing the truth about CNMI labor abuses during the early 1990's.  We suffered physical assaults, death threats, damage to property, gunshots at our house, and our daughter received dozens of calls threatening that she would be raped, etc. with not one response to any of the dozen or more police complaints filed. So I have to say, I certainly would not "laugh in the face" of the CNMI LeakSource authors.

The CNMI Government has failed to follow Open Government Act over and over and over. They rely on the fact that few have resources or time to sue them.

The newspapers have missed some newsworthy stories. I know that I have written many stories on this website that were later picked up by the traditional CNMI media. Suppression encourages corruption. Free speech improves government. I say all people should be encouraged to express their freedom of speech by whatever legal means that they can. Leak away people!


Anonymous said...

spot on Wendy

Wendy Doromal said...

I am disappointed that the CNMI LeakSource is down and hope that the authors can get it up soon and continue their mission to allow an outlet where people can share the truth.

Anonymous said...

The leaks also show the character of those who are exposed. In the case of the DEQ official arrested in AS, she never apologized but made excuses to a reporter. Shameful! The mayor did apologize. The two others -no response. And they run for office? HA!

Anonymous said...

Zaldy is one of the elitist Filipino. He looks down on the OCWs and sees himself as high above us. He doesn't even support OCWs cause. So many times he sides with a politician trying to get votes even the politician is trying to hurt us. He can't see human side in some issues because he put himself on a high a pedestal. From so high he can't see what the every day OCW has to bear. Don't expect him to support free speech or someones website. He could sees it as competition.

Anonymous said...

You're correct. You either support free speech or don't. Biba ACLU!

What's with Zaldy on this? I don't get it. Is it that whole selective criticism and protecting family and political allies thing? Kilili has way more to hide than what Zaldy mentioned in his editorial. So do some other popular elected officials. Sometimes I think both the Tribune and Variety are selective in what they print. CNMI Leak Source may not be.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Zaldy now a greencard holder?

He has no concern for OCWs, he never will. In his entire life as a writer here on CNMI, he never use his pen and his profession, his media connection (if he ever had) in Phils. to write about OCWs struggles, suffering here on CNMI.

He's kumpaire with some politikos! You think he's credible? He's just a writer, can't expect more from him, I guess.

Anonymous said...

CNMI leaks went down because those who run the site found some of their own dirty laundry posted online. Those weren't leaks, they were old news stories dating back a decade. Castro was pulled over in American Samoa and allegedly got arrested. Okay - wow. Now what? Are people stalking each other with cameras? Mr. Sablan was seeing doing several shots of whiskey in a strip bar. Post it and let's all destroy him. Ambrose Bennett is a convicted felon (true). Let's post it and destroy Ambrose and his family! That's the purpose of CNMI Leaks - not to tell the truth or "uncover" anything, it is to destroy someone's reputation. Everyone knows who the mouth is behind the site.

Wendy Doromal said...

4:49 Huh? As I understand it the site went down because it reached its capacity and has to be upgraded to be able to accept the documents. Nothing I saw on the site was gossipy. It was all legal violations of public officials.

You know the purpose of the site was not what it said because....? Really? I do not know who is behind the site, but I support free speech.