Now that the worst Yellowtard nightmare has transpired — the ascent to power of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. — mass media “activists” are on edge. They now engage in preemptive fear mongering that the Marcos administration will be coming down hard on the industry which, you guessed it, heralds the start of their much-anticipated “attack on press freedom” (or so we keep getting told). Well perhaps it is high time that the media be attacked — specifically taking them to task for a blanket immunity from prosecution for inappropriate, even criminal, behaviour that they had granted themselves over the last three and a half decades and now rabidly defend.
Just like Filipinos have come to realise that “freedom” is not the be-all-end-all that guarantees them prosperity, it has also come to light recently that a “free press” delivers nothing much as far as anything really relevant to the average Filipino goes. That the Yellowtard and communist camps that have all but appointed themselves the “guardians” of “press freedom” of the land find themselves today utterly buried by Marcos’s and his running mate Sara Duterte’s landslide electoral wins proves this. Despite the non-renewal of the franchise to broadcast of ABS-CBN happening under former president Rodrigo Duterte’s watch, Duterte sustained his public trust and approval ratings. Duterte went on to cap his term with the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC’s) blocking of Internet access to communist media channels Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking of the articles of incorporation of “social news network” Rappler. Not much of an activist “movement” erupted following those either. All we got was a pathetic whimper from the discredited “thought leaders” of the Philippines’ “journalism” establishment.
It seems that, for many Filipinos today, “journalism” of the sort Yellowtards and communists “fight” and “hold the line” for is a hollow notion propped up by partisans with dishonest intents. Stories that make top headlines in mainstream news outlets don’t reflect what truly matter to ordinary Filipinos and, instead, are motivated primarily by partisan agendas. Small surprise that none of what constitutes the “plight” of embattled media organisations like Rappler, Bulatlat, and Pinoy Weekly today resonates with the broader public. They’ve essentially made themselves irrelevant on account of the stories they choose to prioritise in aid of their dishonest agendas.
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A fine balance needs to be struck between allowing mass media outlets reasonable freedom to contribute to a healthy public discourse and holding them accountable for noise and degenerate content they deliver to our screens. This may require publicly funded mass media networks that are mandated to produce and air content that is of true service to the public unencumbered by the financial and political goals of privately-held for-profit media organisations. The national interests need to be upheld and necessarily weigh larger than the interests of private enterprise. The idea that “press freedom” trumps all that, as we are lead to believe by its cheerleaders such as Nobel “Peace Prize” laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, should be given serious reevaluation.
The late former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once spoke about the divisiveness of Philippine media in a speech given during the annual convention of American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1998. According to Lee, “a wieldy partisan press helped Filipino politicians to flood the market place of ideas with junk”. Lee was referring to how the Philippine press before Martial Law enjoyed unrestrained freedom but failed the Filipino people. Lee added that the Philippine press “confused and befuddled the Filipino people so they could not see what their vital interests were in a developing country. And because basic issues like economic growth and equitable distribution was seldom discussed and were not tackled, the democratic system malfunctioned.”
Now that the government is headed by leaders who are not kept on a tight leash by oligarchs who own big media organisations, a rare opportunity has been opened to reform the anarchy that is today’s mass media landscape. Filipinos can thank outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte for getting the ball rolling. Under the watch of President Marcos Filipinos can now look forward to a regime that can truly keep mass media honest. As to fears that government could be in a position to abuse this power, there is, of course, social media where a true free market of ideas ensures that everyone is kept honest. No one organisation or camp can presume to be the final authority on what is the truth and what “facts” need to be “checked”.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.