THE media community in Davao City is marking its seventh Davao Media Freedom Day through a forum with students in various fields of communication. We say mark, not celebrate, for the day carries with it a reminder of a gruesome past.
During its inception, the first Davao Media Freedom Day on November 23, 2010 was organized in a hurry to ensure that the media community through the years will be marking the date and the number of years hence of the bloodiest massacre involving media workers, the Ampatuan Massacre in Parang, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.
In one fell swoop, 58 people were killed, 32 of them media workers as the ruling Ampatuan family fumed that a rival, now governor Esmael Mangudadatu, was going to file his certificate of candidacy to run against the incumbent Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.
The hapless media workers, lawyers, and members of the Mangudadatu family were brought to the hills of sitio Masalay in the village of Salman, Ampatuan, and mowed with bullets. Several of those killed were buried using a backhoe along with their vehicles, several others were left on the ground. All dead.
Thus, on the first anniversary of the massacre, the media community of Davao City gathered to involve students in remembering and learning on the 1st Davao Media Freedom Day.
Seven years hence, the case is still pending in court, not one accused has been convicted, and 81 of the 197 suspects remain at large.
In the meantime, the media industry continues to evolve and grow, bringing more challenges, realizations, and even abuses, and a lot of information such that it becomes easy to be distracted and focus on the mundane.
This year's theme tackles what has been grabbing our collective attention and making the loudest noise and distraction -- the social media.
"#Kablog: The impact of social media on journalism" tries to make sense of this power that has many of our colleagues roiled up against, but which we recognize as the amplified voice of our audience, the post-modern manifestation of feedback, both real-time and perpetual as only the Internet can do.
Harnessing this power that has been bestowed to all, whether journalist or not, we remember the lessons of the past, the abuses that have been allowed to fester making an attack of such erstwhile unimaginable scale possible, as we constantly remind the younger generation about how power can be corrupted to levels that a human soul cannot plumb, while learning new lessons along the way.
As media practitioners, our primary task is to chronicle events and issues and bring these in story forms out to the broadest masses. The Age of Information makes that task both easier and more difficult for us.
Easier, because we have at our fingertips the audience worldwide. More difficult because the technologies are advancing every year, leaving behind anyone who refuses to upgrade knowledge, and most difficult because every other person, journalist or not, has the means to reach out to the same audience either to enhance enlightenment or muddle the conversation.
Amid all these noise and haste, and even rabid attacks, we all must hold fast to the ideals of media freedom and free exchange of information and views and strive to make these ideals the norm, while maintaining our role as journalists whose major concern is to deliver stories that have been verified, is closest to the truth as we can make it, and delivered in a way that will be relevant and of use to our chosen audience.
The medium may change, but the discipline should remain is a mantra we should always repeat to ourselves as we mark yet another year as one evolving industry in a world that is growing noisier and complex by the second.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 23, 2016.
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