THE CATACLYSM

The journalists are watchdogs –the ones who live not just to provide the bark but also to

give the bite. They are the purveyors of the truth (and nothing but the truth), the catalysts for

reforms, the public’s mind-opener to what is unseen, the conduits between those who rule and

those who follow and the ones who educate the ignorant of what is unknown. But the point is,

how can these watchdogs bite when they are chained? How can they make a move when they are

paralyzed? Where is that so-called press freedom when they are like puppets held by masters in

their hands? This is now the cataclysm faced by the media men as they sail along the angry seas

of lies and mysteries on a dark cold night in search of the truth. They are like Odysseus lost in

the wild ocean with the gods in control of his fate. This is what Shiela S. Coronel of Philippine

Center of Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), wants to point out as she wrote the articles “The Role

of Media in Deepening Democracy” and “The Lord of the Press”. The public’s eye is opened to

the fact behind the given facts, the news behind the news and the realmacoy. There are things

that hobble these people of the press as they go on an odyssey of bringing out what the people

must believe in. Stringent laws, monopolistic ownerships and the threats of brutality- these are

the real catastrophe.

MEDIA AS FOURTH ESTATE

If the executive department is for the enforcement of laws, the legislative for the

enactment and the judiciary is for the interpretation, the media, as the fourth estate is recognized

to do the checks and balances and the watch for any inconsistencies and discrepancies that are

happening in the governing bodies. According to Coronel, it is the press people’s job to promote

democracy, to educate the people of their rights, to promote tolerance among social groups and
to ensure transparency of government matters. Their mission is to provide every citizen the news

of the day. They are existing to let people speak what they hold on their hearts for it is the right

of every individual to express.

The power of mass media is in its zenith when they can accomplish their role of putting

an end to what is false for the sake of public welfare and to warn the people of what is degrading

them for the practice of their rights. Coronel’s articles engraved a very deep appreciation of how

media men stood atop of the perils and risks that goes with the act of enlightening the public’s

view.

THE LIGHTNING BOLT

Another writer, MalouMangahas(the founder of PCIJ), gave a discrete list of factual

information on how the media and the civil society worked hand in hand against the reign of

corruption. This fearless consensus resulted to the removal of someone who reigned with the

controversies of mansions and mistresses, of jam-packed contracts and under-the-table dealings.

The power of public opinion is now a lightning bolt that hits those who practice the unethical.

Massive protest rallies, rigorous researches and investigations, with the help of prayers

and vigils, showed how powerful the mass is. In the liberal sense the exercise of free-will and

expression became the tactic of the unheard. It was their weapon to fight the divisiveness the

government was up to during the Estrada regime.

Mangahas showed the efforts and the results of the successful People Power 2. However,

she also stated that Filipinos should ponder on this- the two massive conventions of people

(People Power 1 and 2) in pointing out their reprimand to the administration is a manifestation of
the “street politics” winning over the due process of law. What happened to be a long critical

trial was done hastily. It was like taking the short-cut thus proving how disempowered the

Filipinos were.

OF MEDIA’S INCUBUS

The practice of journalistic principles and values do not always lie to be the ideal type.

Public service faces a dilemma of weighing things- the appropriate and inappropriate. The press

is always in the middle of two roads diverging in a yellow wood. They are bound to make

discrete and careful choices as they deliver as they deliver the real things for people should

always remember that the media is not just a social institution formed to educate, inform and

interpret but also a business entity which exists to earn a profit. The proprietors are now bound

with two things- in the service of the people and in the service of their gains.

With the word JOURNALISM comes the word TRUTH. Press people are expected to be

the truth bearers, but how can they do their jobs when there is someone in control of them? For

goodness sake, they are to choose between the people who hungers for the truth and the hands

that feed them. Now, where is that journalistic autonomy? Where is the free-press? This is now

the press’ incubus.

Just like what Coronel said, the newspapers became the mouthpieces of their owners.

This is true to almost all of the papers that circulate here in the Philippines. The financial aspect

is essential for the existence of media just like the other institutions. Now, the point is that these

business entities need to create a pleasing appeal to the mob and to their stake holders for them to

gain money. Any wrong move or word from the press would really bring their business at stake.
What happens is that the press are now prohibited to expose stories that will harm their business

reputation and how about the truth? It is gone with the wind. Where will it go? Maybe in

Camelot.

Corruption of the truth became rife and democracy becomes a farce. Coronel said,

“Democracy is impossible without a free-press”. But where is that free-press now? The press is

now suffocated with the fact that they have to do what their lords tell them for they are not that

financially stable. Everything becomes absurd as media faces tremendous control and

suppression of what is ought to be revealed.

Coronel’s exposé about the case of Emilio Yap, the owner of Manila Bulletin, and the

Razon family, one of the Standard’s owners, who used the papers to serve their vested business

interests, is a clear manifestation of how far these proprietors go just to satisfy their personal

gains. The media is now used, misused and abused. The media’s power to shape public opinion,

to set the agenda and as social radar is now used to vindicate their names and pots of gold. It’s

just sad to realize these things, but this is the ugly truth.

ANIMOSITY IS NO AMITY

The world needs the power of the press in bringing out the truth. Though it may hurt, the

truth will always be the truth. And once stained, it’ll no longer be the same. People can’t be

ignorant for the rest of their lives. In order to build a well-developed country,people should be

knowledgeable of the happenings around them. And now enters the journalists’ role of educating

and informing the people of the things they ought to know and what they should believe.
But the press is now supressed. With the animosity given to the press now, the truth is at

stake. The people are served with fallacies that cover the real things. What happens next is that

people are becoming ignorant, they tend to believe the things before their eyes and resort to be

preoccupied by the things they believed in. Shiela S. Coronel proved how the journalists risk

their souls as they fight for the right things. Malou Mangahas showed how powerful public

opinion is, the victory gained through unity. But with all the animosities given by the so called

lords to the press people, public vigilance is a need. Apathy has to be buried and teamwork has to

be boosted.

By Sarah Jean Dado

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