I LIKE the way media mogul Oprah Winfrey said it when she accepted recently the Golden Globe’s Cecil B. DeMille award: media is under siege.
“But we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants, and victims and secrets and lies. I wanna say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times,” she said, adding, “Which brings me to this: What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
It is not by mere coincidence that Oprah’s thoughts on what is happening in such a powerful country as the United States also rings true in an economically struggling nation like the Philippines. We share almost the same kind of leadership and governance: Donald Trump out there and Rodrigo Duterte out here. The two leaderships inspire efforts to dismantle progressive structures and old values.
Media is under siege in the US. It is under siege in the Philippines. To be fair, President Duterte is not attacking traditional media the way Trump does, but his minions, especially in social media, are doing it with unprecedented virulence and harshness. The unfortunate thing is that even some media practitioners have become purveyors of untruths and lies directed at their own colleagues.
Worse, they have become active participants with partisans and trolls in dismantling the values we journalists hold dear and which are part of the foundation of our profession. Here in Cebu, a Facebook page that styles itself as a news page has caught the ire of local media workers for its lack of scruples, shamelessly stealing photographs and news stories from legitimate news sources.
I won’t name this Facebook page for the simple reason that I don’t want to deal with trolls. I don’t want them to gain popularity at my expense. I take it that this FB page is being run now by still active and former media practitioners who have sold their souls to the highest bidder—in this case a government entity, the reason why it could not be shut down.
Journalists have been taught that plagiarizing the work of others is a mortal sin. That this FB page and its administrators do not consider plagiarism a sin speaks volumes of the values that guide their operation and negates any claim to their being purveyors of citizen journalism. But being a legitimate news page does not really seem to be its reason for being. It seeks to undercut legitimate media’s influence and wreaks havoc on their operation and in the process weaken them.
For what ends? For the interest of their masters who are paying them.
The attack on media is real in much the same way that the assault on hallowed institutions and traditional values is real. Institutions like the Supreme Court, the Commission on Human Rights and even the media, among many others, have already been weakened. Values have been eroded by the practices of leaders who make cursing a virtue and destroying characters and lives a normal practice.
When these end and a new day dawns, would there be institutions and values we can salvage?