Sad, dreadful days ahead for the press

LAST Friday, July 9, 2020, majority, 70 of the 96 members, of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, voted to no longer grant private media company, ABS-CBN, another legislative franchise.

And immediately after, even up to now, cries of ‘democracy is dead’ and that what happened is ‘another blow to press freedom,’ continue to be heard with even some press groups and one media entity joining in the fulsome condemnation of Congress’ exercise of its authority to decide when it comes to the issuance or denial of a legislative franchise.

For yours truly, media’s joining in the condemnation of the decision, despite the free availability of the reasons behind it, has become another sad day for the state of the Philippine media—and why those of us in the mainstream are fast losing our credibility.

When members of the press are no longer being objective in their reportage or their opinion on any issue, vital or trivial, when all they can do now is to join the angry throng without the cool objectivity demanded of them thru an impartial assessment of the facts, then our profession is indeed headed for the dogs.

And this, our becoming too lazy to look at any issue without bias or involvement of our personal relationship with those affected or, when we no longer try to think that a journalist’s role is not only to report the “news” but more importantly, to help in the enlightenment of our people, then something has gone very wrong.

If instead, members of the press did not immediately jump into the hollering bandwagon and the appeal-to-emotion tactic of the minority but assiduously observed the Journalist Code of Ethics’ first imposition to “scrupulously report the news” without resorting to suppressing “essential facts” nor “distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis,” the public would have a better appreciation of what happened last Friday.

But no. All throughout, we saw some of our colleagues brazenly parroting the lie, among others, that ABS-CBN has “more than 11,000 employees.” And yet, the BIR and the DOLE officially submitted to Congress that it only has a little over 4,000 actual/regular employees.

Ditto, I find it saddening and yes, irritating, when members of the press are the first to denounce our lack of democracy and press freedom when they conveniently forget that one media company (or personality) is never a representative of Philippine democracy.

For how can they, eyes wide-open, cry there is no more press freedom because Maria Ressa is convicted for her criminal article and ABS-CBN was denied a franchise for its management’s many white-collar crimes?

Do we now forget that right after ABS-CBN’s denial, there continue to exist, 225 television stations, 369 AM radio stations, 583 FM radio stations, at least a dozen more broadsheets and more than 40 tabloids? And not included in the list are the countless number of “media entities” freely airing their own news and opinions in the Internet.

Are these facts not proof enough that our democracy and press freedom have not been compromised at all by the shutting down of one private media company”

If members of the press are now decidedly committed to suppress the truth and essential facts in the practice of the profession, then truly, last Friday’s event—and the coming days henceforth, would not only be sad but, dreadful ones for the press.