[Originally published on June 2020 at bit.ly/bgsportsspecial]
“Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.” (Horace Greeley, New-York Tribune founder)
Greeley’s statement is a testament to the challenges faced by media practitioners as they preserve the truth in the service of the people. While the general masses may be re-learning the role of the media in their lives, Greeley’s statement isn’t something new for journalists as they experience different struggles. May it be through receiving threats to risking their lives, the never-ending attacks against Philippine media practitioners prove how press freedom is still violated in our country.
Media has been a figure constantly present in our country’s history, essential for democracy to function healthily and responsible to inform the public as the society’s watchdog for the three branches of government. It has also helped shaped the country with its influence over public opinion even going way back as La Solidaridad’s pursuit for reforms towards the Spanish colonial government, and it can even sway public perception like how it framed the alleged suspects of the Chiong murder case in 1997.
However, Philippine journalists, who were trained to be critical and objective in reporting, are often silenced or even attacked by the institutions that they are watching over because of their said impact and influence. They often fall vulnerable around topics about the government or persons in authority. This is reflected on its third consecutive year of being demoted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in their annual report recently placing our country as 136th among 180 countries.
One of the blows against press freedom is the Maguindanao Massacre, the world’s single deadliest attack on journalists, taking a decade-long trial for justice to prevail last December 2019. Another is the sudden bombardment of filed cases against Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa, that forced her to post bail six times in less than two months, which was called as an attack on the press by local and foreign media.
Now comes the case of ABS-CBN which was issued a cease and desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission, causing the media mogul to shut down despite addressing the government’s questions around their franchise’s validity beforehand. It has come just a few months after the president’s verbal threats against their corporation and when their importance is crucial amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This even ignited protest among citizens in social media, which challenged institutions and curbed the decision in favor of the people and society.
With people engaging more against attacks to press freedom, as consumers of media, we try to minimize disputes by acknowledging what are threats to the media and identify what are the standards of acceptable information. Educate people rather than downplaying them so that they can better comprehend the issue because the beginning of change and reform starts with being informed. Juan Miguel Agcolicol