Velez: Pressing forward


MAY 3 was World Press Freedom Day.

In this age, though, journalists or media workers are called the enemy. It seems funny that years ago, media were hailed for fighting censorship in the Marcos years. There were community journalists, campus journalists who risked jail, surveillance and even bullets, just to tell stories of people living under abuses under Martial Law.

It seems funny now that people sweep every media group as biased. They say that when they see a report they deem negative for putting the president in a bad light.

What is the difference between this administration from the past that deserves to be free from criticisms or exposes or straight questions? I mean, we reported Yolanda mess, MRT problems, Lumad killings, ZTE corruption in the past. What makes our coverage of the same themes of corruption and abuses a weapon of destabilizing the government?

These are things that I ask now, as we find information is less important over entertainment, chismis and fake news. Just look how we like to focus on an anonymous video entity called “Bikoy” rather than the investigative reports of PCIJ over irregularities in the presidential families’ wealth?

I sometimes believe people like to wrap themselves in their own version of facts. How millennials may enjoy social media but display apathy towards social issues. How Davao people enjoy bashing people who criticize Duterte yet outside of their homes, there’s traffic, flood, more people and children sleeping on the streets and scavenging on garbage bins.

Social analysts would say this “post-truth,” post-modern, liberal democracy and strongman age favors individual views, often narrow and even self-serving, over the society’s search for the common good. It is also shown in how strongman rulers like ours want to bend facts to favor their end.

I’m stretching things a bit. But as it is press freedom day, the question is: what is our freedom for?

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines put it this way: “Fighting for press freedom is being responsible to the people. The struggle for freedom of expression is also the struggle to tell the stories of the people.”

Indeed, even as we find this state and our social media world caught up in a storm, media still finds it place, by telling stories about the true state of our nation. We surface again the struggles of the poor: the Lumad, Moro bakwit, workers, urban poor and more sectors whose stories are drowned by Duterte’s propaganda and disinformation.

This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day: “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.” It challenges media to carry out their basic role: to turn the tide of opinion against patronage and parochial politics and press the people’s voice forward.


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