FREEDOM of the press seems to be an issue in the country today. There are loud and silent sounds dragged into the streets of Metro Manila and other selected communities.
Two reasons: the court conviction of Maria Ressa of Rappler for libel; and the non-issuance by congress of a fresh franchise for ABS-CBN to operate for another 25 years after it lapsed on May 4. Street protesters are accusing the government of President Duterte curtailing the freedom of expression and communication.
What is freedom of the press? It is the right of every individual to speak out his mind under a democratic form of government. It is enshrined in the constitution.
This freedom is, nonetheless, guided by rules such as libel laws. And the use of airwaves by radio and television networks is a grant issued by the government through franchises.
Persons writing for newspapers, TV and radio were called newspapermen or journalists in earlier times. It is a responsible profession. Hence, they belong to the so-called “Fourth Estate,” added to the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judiciary.
These days, they are popularly referred to as media men or women. Even others in the field of mass communication or social media, the likes of YouTube bloggers and Facebook texters fall under such classification.
Whether there is a basis for street protests, it is not for us to judge. Yet I agree with others that a street demonstration is a form of freedom of expression. It is not curtailed as they parade.
Truth is never simple in this world. Yet the truth is, they are exercising their freedom to speak out in the streets and the internet. Be that as it may, fair or unfair, protests are free. But then again, the inviolability of facts must be held sacred.
How did distance mass communication start when no newspapers were available, and television and the internet were never in the imagination?
It is interesting to know that it all started with the “dot-dash-dot” code. This was 177 years ago somewhere in 1843 to 1844 when two men, Samuel F.B. Morse and his friend Alfred Vail, sought out ways to deliver messages faster than human runners or on horseback.
The method is called Morse Code, named after its designer that up to this cyber age, is still being practiced by military signal officers and boy scouts.
The first message sent via electrical wires from Washington D.C. to Baltimore read: “What hath God wrought.”
Not long after in 1846, engineers who installed the wires along the railways in Pennsylvania sent the more popular message. It read: “Why don’t you write stupid?” That phrase later became the favorite of writers and journalists.
From then on, further discoveries in relaying messages faster followed. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell advanced the existence of radio waves. Germany’s Heihnrish Hertz proved that radio waves were real, leading to wireless communications.
It was in l901 when an Italian Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless radio message across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1905, Canadian physicist Reginald Fessenden invented a voice transmitter and made the first radio broadcast a year later.
Perhaps the inspiration of Morse and Vail must have come with the Indian long-distance communication system by smoke signal. But unknown to Morse and Vail, the American Indian and the communication scientists, their discoveries would open up the airwaves into cyberspace with fast transmission methods and gadgets.
Today, cell phones, televisions, radios and computers have brought the world closer through a flick of the button. A voice on the other side of the globe can be heard; and visuals of world interest across the oceans and wide land mast can be instantly viewed in television and computers.
Surely, science is moving the world beyond the smoke signals of the American Indian or the dot-dash-dot code.
The Philippines as a developing country has moved with the pace of cyberspace communications. She has gained the notoriety for sending/receiving the most number in text messages on planet earth.
Young and old citizens are addicted to this dexterity, enhancing gadgets called cellphone. It has become a fad where chatting over trivial matters under the sun is allowed including bushing and criticizing government policies.
I guess the present generations may not be “stupid” in expressing their minds in a democracy. Yes Aling Kulasa, there is freedom of speech and expression in my country. Like smoking a cigarette, they get addicted to this craze.