By Rhealyn C. Pojas
With the press celebrating the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. acknowledged the media during a press conference on Wednesday at the President’s satellite office and told them that they are the fourth branch of the government.
“The media is the fourth arm of the government. There is the legislative, judiciary, executive and there’s the media-tive,” Remengesau said in Palauan.
“In some countries they would strangle you, charge you, and hold your passport. [In Palau] you guys are free to write what you want to say and we don’t put you in jail,” Remengesau added.
In 2016, Palau topped Freedom House’s assessment of press freedom in the Asia-Pacific region with the Marshall Islands ranking second. Freedom House is a US-based non-governmental organization that releases yearly report on freedom of the press.
Article 4, Section 1 of Palau’s Constitution protects the rights of the press and it states that “the government shall take no action to deny or impair the freedom of expression or the press. No bona fide reporter may be required by the government to divulge or be jailed for refusing to divulge information obtained in the course of a professional investigation.”
This year’s World Press Freedom Day was anchored on the theme, “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law,” and it gives emphasis on the “importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom,” and giving “special attention to the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and the prosecution of crimes against journalists.”