Thanksgiving : one year after deadly typhoon

Baby Israel by Emylou Antigua

“My little Israel . . . blessing from God . . .” wrote Haiyan survivor Emylou Antigua on her Facebook account / contributed by Emylou Antigua)

Emylou Antigua has a happy reminder of the devastating typhoon that battered the central Philippines a little over a year ago: her son, named for the Israeli medical team that helped deliver him.

American Jewish Pins toys JDC photo

Danny Pins, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee chief financial officer for Africa and Asia region distributing toys and food to children in northern Cebu, Philippines. (Courtesy of JDC)

For Chief Financial Officer Danny Pins of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee his group’s response to Haiyan is “personally rewarding.”

Catholic mom, Jewish financial officer – what they are grateful for in their experience related to typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda…

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Pope Francis, visit war-torn areas and survivors – Tamil Civil Society Groups

Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) has called upon Pope Francis to visit war-torn areas in the North and East and visit the survivors of the “war  against Tamils”, as part of his visit to Sri Lanka in 2015.

TCSF – a network of Tamil civil society social activists from the North and East including Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, aired their appeal in a letter to the Pope on Sunday. It requested him to openly call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to genuinely address grievances of Tamils during his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The text of the letter is published on Eye Sri Lanka

Address grievances of all factions – human rights, justice and peace advocate

In her presentation to last month’s International Conference on Politics and International Affairs in Athens, Salma Yusuf, pointed out that while the defeat of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in May 2009 ended the three decades-long conflict, its root causes remain.

Yusuf, university lecturer and adviser to programs on human rights law, transitional justice, comparative social justice and peace-guilding, stressed that grievances of all factions in the conflict have to be addressed. 

“When advocating reconciliation and unity, the fears and anxieties of all communities must be acknowledged, understood and addressed,” Yusuf said.

She warned, “An over-emphasis on the grievances of the Tamil community alone which is the natural tendency can lead to new waves of conflict and at must be avoided at all costs.” 

Read full text of her presentation  titled Sri Lanka: Reconciliation is Both a Process and a Goal 

Related posts

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist-Muslim Clashes Reveal the Evil of Politicising Religion

Ruki Fernando Out of Detention, Is He Free?

What Can Asia Expect from Upcoming Papal Visits?

 

Catholic bishops launch preparations for Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka –

Bishops of Sri Lanka met with priests and the apostolic nuncio in Colombo on June 17 to begin preparations for the announced visit of Pope Francis to their country in January, a priest reported on the official website of the Archdiocese of Colombo.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and nuncio Archbishop Nguyen Van Tot presided at the Central Committee Meeting at the Bishops’ Conference hall, Borella, Colombo, reported Fr.Sunil De Silva. 

Bishops and priests at the meeting reportedly discussed possible sites for papal visits and formed committees that would prepare for Pope Francis’ visit next year. 

Cardinal Ranjith is cited as saying he had received information saying the “tentative dates” of the pope’s visit to Sri Lanka would be on January 13, 14 and 15, 2015. A delegation from the Vatican is reportedly expected to arrive to discuss the papal visit.

See the meeting in pictures via the Archdiocese of Colombo

Pope Francis also told a news conference during his flight from the Holy Land to Rome in May he would visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January.

Philippines Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato also told Manila reporters last week after a press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress that a representative from the Vatican would be arriving around the time of this July’s plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to discuss arrangements for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines after his trip to Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

End

 

 

 

Filipino family wrestles with Haiyan

 

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the "super typhoon" that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Haiyan survivor Mark Anthony Lacanaria who joined People Surge alliance of typhoon survivors told Catholic In Asia in Manila in April how he survived the “super typhoon” that flattened communities in Leyte, central Philippines last Nov. 8, 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

“Kuya” is the Filipino term of respect for older brother. Big brother was what Mark Anthony Lacanaria felt he had to do well last Nov. 8 when news reports and local leaders announced a “super typhoon” was underway.

On his trip to Manila with People Surge alliance of Haiyan victims preparing to meet Cardinal Luis Tagle in April, Lacanaria told Catholic In Asia the ordeal his family and community of Diit, Tacloban City, went through before, during and after typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which left his community in shambles. His story follows: (translated from Tagalog)

My family

We are five siblings – orphans – and I’m the eldest so I felt responsible for everyone’s safety. Two days before the typhoon our barangay (village) was preparing for the super typhoon. I asked my younger siblings on the eve of the typhoon to help me tie down the roof so that at least there will be some “yero” (galvanized iron) left should the wind get vicious. As it turned out the typhoon would not just come after our roof, but ate up our whole house!

We’ve experienced many typhoons before in my 30 years in this world, but nothing with this strength of the wind and this severe flooding.

My wife is a DH (domestic helper) in Malaysia. Our daughter was in Guiuan (Samar) where my in-laws live.

Preparing for Yolanda (Haiyan)

On the eve of the projected arrival of the typhoon, many residents left their houses for higher ground. Many others didn’t want to leave their property.

Past 5 a.m. Nov. 8, I told my siblings to cook noodles so we can feed the children (nieces/nephews) breakfast before the typhoon came. After we ate, I sent away my younger siblings and three of my nephews and nieces to a house not far from ours but on higher ground. Four of us brothers stayed behind with my pregnant sister who was worried about leaving her belongings.

Saving my family

Wind came first. It was powerful and sounded like a machine was ripping off the galvanized iron from our roof. Around 7:30-8:00 a.m. was when the water came into our house. It was as if a fireman pointed his hose at our front door and turned on his power hose. Water gushed in, only it was black. In a few minutes we were swimming out through my bedroom window, one behind each other.

When we looked back in just a matter of minutes and about 3 feet way the water had swallowed our house. It really didn’t matter that many of us were good in swimming. We just stayed steady and allowed ourselves to flow with the tide because if you tried to swim, you might hit what was under water – iron roofing of houses, broken glass, huge posts with nails, so we couldn’t swim.

Our youngest sibling got cut by yero because when he kicked to swim he hit something.We were dragged by the water to a huge mango tree so we hung on to its branches and watched our whole barangay disappear under the water. My brothers and pregnant sister began crying.

We managed to float past the tall wall of a warehouse near our house so it blocked the water from coming so fast at us. We got lucky with that wall. Four pairs of us floated around, including a couple whose wife was also very pregnant, and an elderly man who was yelling at the top of his lungs, but we couldn’t hear him at first because the wind was very loud. In the beginning I wondered whether we had been dragged to sea because I swallowed water several times and it was really salty. It wasn’t rain water.

When we got to the tree, I told my sister to clasp the tree. She wanted me to go back for her children, but I told her, later on. The water had not completely subsided.When it did it left so many bodies scattered around our community. People began crying.

Bigger family

We gathered together wherever we were those of us who survived. I saw a man and his sons Christian and Alwin. Alwin  grew so pale after having blood ooze out of a cut on his arm from flying roofing material. One of the sons is only 2 years old.

The children were in a house that was on higher ground but they still had to climb up into the ceiling They squeezed in there, eight families. When I saw them after the flood, I was just so grateful that the ceiling didn’t collapse. They were all wet and very scared. I just left them there first.

Our village

I climbed a nearby hill farther from the seaside. I looked down and saw from our barangay to the downtown areas. It was like everything was swept away.

Our barangay is Diit. It is a slaughterhouse for cattle. We live near a slaughterhouse. The meat from there is sold in the market. I used to work there. My parents worked there too. So all the dead were scattered around the grounds – carabao, cattle, pigs, dogs and people. People looked at the corpses to find relatives. They began wailing in chorus.

In our entire region, it really wasn’t made clear to us what was the projected viciousness and power of this typhoon would actually be. They said “storm surge,” but we didn’t know what that was. Even Mayor’s (Alfred Romualdez) family didn’t seem to know. Although they kept saying the words on tv, it wasn’t clear to us how strong would be the impact and that there would be this rising water.

I sent my brothers out to gather anything we could eat. That was the first thought that came to mind. This will be a big long period of hunger.

Cut off from the world

Meanwhile, my wife was very worried because she couldn’t reach any of us from Malaysia. It was Nov. 24 when we were finally able to talk. She didn’t know what happened, how we all were. Our daughter was in Guiuan (Samar) and my wife had heard from the news the typhoon first hit landfall in Guiuan and they showed scenes of the wreck it left there. But my in-laws had less damage than we suffered in Diit.

I  wondered why no help was coming. I told my siblings I thought they were saying on tv that the government was very ready with help for us before the typhoon struck. They were reporting there were ready relief goods. Where were all these goods?

For days nobody came to us. Then finally after about 4 days media came. But their chopper didn’t come down. It just hovered above us, maybe scanning the area. Maybe they were headed somewhere else. It was the fifth day after the typhoon, soldiers came in trucks, but they were just clearing part of the way. They didn’t bring food or anything. That’s why I suppose looting began.

Looting

We are far from the mall area but we were so starved for five days taking in only water that we gathered from containers floating around. We boiled it because we weren’t confident they were safe. We only found coffee and some crackers and whatever snacks.

We even found discolored rice already spoiling, but we cooked it just the same because the children were getting hungry. It came out sticky because it soaked in water already. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it, and I was amazed that the children ate it. I prayed so hard that they wouldn’t get diarrhea, and they didn’t. We older ones couldn’t eat it.

After a few days, I could no longer hold back my tears. I thought where was that help that the government said they were ready with?  So when news came to us about looting, my brothers said, “Kuya let’s go downtown and get food.” But I told them it was too long a way and the roads and bridge may not passable even by foot. We couln’t bike because there were so many dead bodies scattered around. If we would just get material things it is useless. I told my siblings what we need is food.

Relief in a washed away ship

Word arrived there was a boat that was dragged by the winds to shore not too far from our community. More important, we heard it carried 8 thousand sacks of rice. I climbed and squeezed into the boat to grab as much rice as I could for my family and neighbors. I got one sack of rice and split it in two. Half sack I gave to the owner of a house in our barangay that allowed us all to stay in their house for about 2 weeks while we were building a makeshift house from scraps. The other half sack I split into eight families. My sister, my aunts, uncles.

In the malls, victims may have taken food. If there were appliances taken, those aren’t legit victims, but maybe professional thieves or syndicates from neighboring towns or provinces. Imagine, they reportedly had vehicles. We in Tacloban had no vehicles. They all went underwater.

Our third brother brought his son to Caloocan (Metro Manila). The boy is so traumatized by this experience. He’s afraid even of rain and just if the wind blows the window.

Here in Diit, we went ahead and gathered scraps from wrecked houses and tried to build a makeshift house for my siblings before I left for Guiuan. My sister is just weeks away from delivering her baby. I didn’t know where to take her and how the hospitals were. We had no clue if the hilot (community midwives) had also been washed away.

Tears of joy

All the time I worried inside me about Guiuan where my in laws and daughter were. I heard it was wrecked also. I was very nervous. I didn’t know anything about them. When I arrived there I was so relieved to see they were all okay. They too were worried about me. Everything was wrecked there, but it was mostly very powerful winds. Water didn’t go up. They said they worried that I was drowned also. My daughter, 7 years old, was crying and crying. They were teasing her that I might have drowned.

People Surge

While I was in Guiuan to help my in laws clean up my friend came to Diit to say Makabayan group was holding relief operations. I looked for him after returning to Diit and I volunteered for relief operations. We went around remote places not reached by the donors and aid.

I couldn’t stand the scenes. My thoughts went back to the scenes in Diit on the first day of Yolanda. I could not imagine how it must have been for these people in the hinterlands with few places to run to. A child would come up to me to ask for rice and other food, and in my mind would come pictures of my nephews, or older relatives. “Kuya give us water, do you have water?” they said. My tears kept filling my eyes.

When I heard there would be a big rally in Tacloban last Jan. 25, I decided to join because I experienced everything the organizers were describing not only in my personal experience, but also those of people we were bringing some relief goods to. I learned about the rally from my companions in the relief operations. I heard there would be a big mass action to demand help for typhoon victims. It is just right that what is for survivors should be given to us. We learned that at the height of relief operations, NGOs and international community were donating funds and goods for us survivors, and yet the relief goods being handed out by LGUs were not enough for all.

Suddenly DSWD declared that they would stop handing out relief goods after December. When that announcement was made, I confirmed my decision to join the Jan. 25 rally. I felt the situation was already overwhelming and I couldn’t be a good provider to my family on my own. The government was stopping relief operations even before the situation has been reversed.

Benedictine Sister Erlinda Eslopor (black veil) led a group of 6 members of People Surge alliance of Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors and two supporters (including La Salette Sister Sonia Silverio in white veil) who met with Cardinal Luis Tagle April 8 at the Manila archbishop's residence to present the "true situation" of survivors' continued struggle with no help from government for many places. They also appealed for particular actions from Cardinal Tagle. NJ Viehland Photo

Benedictine Sister Erlinda Eslopor (black veil) led a group of 6 members of People Surge alliance of Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors and two supporters (including La Salette Sister Sonia Silverio in white veil) who met with Cardinal Luis Tagle April 8 at the Manila archbishop’s residence to present the “true situation” of survivors’ continued struggle with no help from government for many places. They also appealed for particular actions from Cardinal Tagle. NJ Viehland Photo

I felt all Eastern Visayas victims had been set up, not only people in Tacloban. They didn’t dialogue with us. It was like we were just floating that time. We didn’t know where to ask or get help. There was nowhere to go. We could see some foreigners arriving, but they had no way to distribute their goods. There’s no system. I heard about People Surge and the movement led by Sister Edita (Eslopor, OSB) to add my voice to the rest who were calling for the same things and asking same questions I had.

Manila sojourn, Cardinal Tagle

Cardinal Luis Tagle posed with members of People Surge alliance of Haiyan survivors and their supporters after he listened to 8 representatives report on their situation and demands from the government at a meeting he hosted in the Manila Archbishop's residence in Intramuros on April 8. NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Tagle posed with members of People Surge alliance of Haiyan survivors and their supporters after he listened to 8 representatives report on their situation and demands from the government at a meeting he hosted in the Manila Archbishop’s residence in Intramuros on April 8. NJ Viehland Photo

I joined the group that came to make our situation known in Manila officials and people. At least each of us represents a town and sitio in Eastern Visayas. We went to Malacanang, but we weren’t entertained.  Only DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) secretary saw us. Now we will go to each official of government. We want to show them we are here trying to get what is given for us. This is not a field trip. I hope Cardinal Tagle will face us and listen to our pleas because we are legitimate victims that were devastated by the typhoon. We aren’t beggars.

End of Part 1/ People Surge

Wave of Destruction in the Season of Creation

By N.J. Viehland

(update 1 Sept. 23, 10:35 p.m.)

Photos and reports showing ravaged communities and people left homeless in Zamboanga City  have saddened viewers and left some aghast.

Was it only nine days ago when I woke up to the voice of Jesuit Father Nono Alfonso as he shared over Church-run radio Veritas 846  stories reaching Ateneo de Zamboanga of armed men massing up, and of gunfire that could be heard in places served by the cathedral parish in Zamboanga City,  roughly 1,102 kilometers southeast of Manila ?

Reasons for the fighting vary, depending on who is telling the story. In fact Filipino Muslims, called “Moro” have been fighting for centuries for self-determination.

Military officials reported on Sept. 9 that MNLF lieutenant Habier Malik, known to be based in Sulu, south of Zamboanga City, led hundreds of armed men into the city to hoist their flag as a symbolic declaration of independence.

MNLF leader Nur Misuari weeks earlier was reported to have declared an independent Mindanao, Palawan and Sabah to demonstrate his opposition to ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had split from the MNLF in the 1970s.

No MILF involvement in this Zamboanga crisis has been reported. Armed Forces of the Philippines officials in press conferences said when government troops prevented the MNLF faction from raising their flag at the city hall the rebels took hostages. Fighting was reportedly “contained” until Friday when the MNLF allegedly fired mortars on civilians and burned houses.

Mayor Beng Climaco of Zamboanga said she spoke on the phone with Misuari, who disowned Malik, but MNLF’s spokesperson told an interview with a tv station Climaco may have just misunderstood Misuari. He would not disown his lieutenant.

After the military launched its “calibrated attacks” Sept. 16 on “pockets of MNLF resistance” in the city, Zamboanga archdiocese’s social action director estimated the number of civilian evacuees grew beyond 100,000, including people who fled their homes to stay with family and friends, instead of evacuation centers

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan told a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, just northeast of Manila, MNLF fighters left fighting in Zamboanga City could be just down to 75 men after the killing of 93 MNLF, and the capture of  179 others since Sept. 9.  Tutaan said 11 soldiers, three policemen and seven civilians were also killed in the fighting. Some 105 military men, 12 police and 67 civilians were injured. A total of 152 hostages had been rescued but less than 100 others remained captive.

Military operations were focused on Santa Barbara and Santa Catalina district, while at least four others have been affected by the conflict, Tutaan told reporters.

There are stories portraying the military as the aggressive party and human rights violations by both sides have been reported.

A few hours ago, the government reportedly claimed victory over the MNLF.

Victory? Who wins in these battles? For these people, the fight against sickness, hunger, homelessness, despair has just started.

Catholic groups have taken up the challenge with Muslim and other partners and neighbors to rebuild what was ruined, restore life in plantations, industry in communities and hope in people’s hearts.

Even Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila more than a thousand kilometers away, shared a prayer for softening of hardened hearts of aggressors and for generosity of prospective donors. He joined the people of the Philippines only in prayer for Zamboanga while he was in Rome during most of the crisis to attend meetings.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila closes the press conference on the October 2013 Philippine Conference on New Evangelization with a prayer.  N.J. Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila closes the press conference on the October 2013 Philippine Conference on New Evangelization with a prayer. N.J. Viehland Photo

Imagine, barely two weeks ahead of the Zamboanga “siege,” Cardinal Tagle led the launch of Manila Archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation”  Sept. 1-Oct. 4 at San Fernando de Dilao Church and Paco Catholic School downtown Manila.  The “season” ending on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, hopes to remind people that all creation belongs to God, and that humans have been entrusted as stewards, not owners of all creation. Gifts of the earth have been created for all to share, Cardinal Tagle said.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his homily for the launching Mass of the archdiocese's observance of "Season of Creation" Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013 reminded people at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila of their role as stewards of God’s creation, emphasizing that they are not owners who could rule over God's creation.  “We have to be reminded that we are mere stewards of creation. God created them and He is the rightful owner of everything,” he said. NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in his homily for the launching Mass of the archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation” Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013 reminded people at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila of their role as stewards of God’s creation, emphasizing that they are not owners who could rule over God’s creation. “We have to be reminded that we are mere stewards of creation. God created them and He is the rightful owner of everything,” he said. NJ Viehland Photo

 Cardinal Tagle lamented the “arrogance, selfishness and greed” that deprive other people of basic needs and sentence them to a life of poverty. People need to stop abusing and neglecting nature, the environment and each other, Cardinal Tagle reminded people at the Mass.  He said all creatures are interrelated and interdependent.

Closing Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila for the Aug. 31 launching seminar of Manila Archdiocese's observance of "Season of Creation" from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. NJ Viehland Photo

Closing Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila for the Aug. 31 launching seminar of Manila Archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation” from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. NJ Viehland Photo

Fr. Georg Ziselberger, SVD, president of GeoChrisFoundation, concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila on the Aug. 31 launch of Manila Archdiocese's observance of "Season of Creation" that runs from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013. At a forum before Mass, Fr. Georg shared his theological reflection on the theme: Caring for God’s Creation Is Our Moral and Spiritual Responsibility. Photo by N.J. Viehland

Fr. Georg Ziselberger, SVD, president of GeoChrisFoundation, concelebrated with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the Mass at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila on the Aug. 31 launch of Manila Archdiocese’s observance of “Season of Creation” that runs from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, 2013. At a forum before Mass, Fr. Georg shared his theological reflection on the theme: Caring for God’s Creation Is Our Moral and Spiritual Responsibility. Photo by N.J. Viehland

He may not have had Bangsamoro issues in mind in that homily. Before fighting in Mindanao broke out citizen movements and anti-corruption advocates, including religious groups in Manila were fighting their own battle pressing for the abolition of alleged graft-laden pork barrel and Special Purpose Funds from the national budget. They have become like “weapons of destruction” of greedy officials against ordinary citizens they pledged to serve.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica's College museum.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica’s College museum.

Maybe gunfights will end in Zamboanga tonight,  tomorrow, next week. For sure, destruction of life, spirit and the future of this and coming generations will persist as long as people apply position and power to personal or political goals and neglect the common good.

“Garden of Angels” in memory of aborted babies

By N.J. Viehland

NazarethFormation House, built and founded in 1999 by Bob and Emy Garon, and accredited by the Department of Health, pioneers in the field of rehabilitation and behavior modification in the Philippines.

Tombstones placed by mothers on retreat in memory of babies they had aborted, as part of a ritual for spiritual healing at Nazareth Formation House in San Jose Batangas owned and run by Bob and Emy Garon with their psychologist daughter Vanessa. Photo by N.J. Viehland

Bob Garon, former La Salette priest and founder of DARE rehabilitation center for addiction, tells the story of the Garden of Angels in his Nazareth Formation House in San Jose, Batangas where mothers who had aborted their babies can go on retreat for spiritual healing. Photo by N.J. Viehland

Tombstones are placed after mothers who had aborted their babies undergo a penitential and healing ritual after a retreat at Nazareth Formation House in San Jose Batangas. Photo by N.J. Viehland

DISCLAIMER: 

Views expressed in the article are those of the interview subject’s and in the comments section are those of the readers. Views expressed in both sections do not necessarily reflect the position of this blog owner.  Catholic in Asia does not knowingly publish false information and may not be held liable for the views of subjects and readers exercising their right to free expression.