[OPINION] The media is important for a vibrant democracy

Rob Julian M. Maghinang

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[OPINION] The media is important for a vibrant democracy
'By threatening to shut down the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rappler, and ABS-CBN, Duterte is trying to discourage any discussions that do not fall in line with his views'

The 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” 

The Duterte administration, through its Solicitor General Jose Calida, seeking to take broadcast giant ABS-CBN off-air is a clear violation of the Declaration. By shutting down the Kapamilya network, Duterte and his cohorts will not only jeopardize the livelihood of around 11,000 Filipinos working in the network, but also the access of more than 105 million Filipinos globally to quality content, whether it’s news or entertainment.

It’s not hard to understand that letting rival network GMA have a monopoly on the airwaves is not good for the public. Sure, there is PTV but, seriously, who still watches them aside from those trying to win the lottery? 

President Rodrigo Duterte should have expected to receive criticism when he entered politics around 30 years ago. His tenure as mayor of Davao City for decades should have made him realize that no matter how great a leader he could be, he cannot please everyone. Besides, criticisms are not purely meant to deride someone’s leadership but also to point out what could be a better way forward. He should have been used to this by now. But instead of addressing his critics, the President just kept barking against the media and acting like a spoiled brat at the dinner table.  

Freedom of the press is essential to a vibrant democracy. One sign of a flourishing democracy is when ordinary people are made cognizant of the issues facing their country and can freely express their opinions and ideas without fear of retribution, as enshrined in the UN Declaration. The media plays a vital role in providing information to the people so that they can think for themselves, and in allowing both sides of the coin to be heard.

By threatening to shut down the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rappler, and ABS-CBN, Duterte is trying to discourage any discussions that do not fall in line with his views. He seeks to be a dictator rather than a caring father to the nation.   

For more than a century, the media has been instrumental in protecting democracy and holding the powerful accountable. The Watergate Scandal, which led to the resignation of then US President Richard Nixon, was spearheaded by Time, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. The Philippine Daily Inquirer exposed the shameless corruption involving Janet Lim Napoles and several high-ranking solons using the Priority Development Assistance Fund, while Rappler has put the spotlight on the bloody crackdown on illegal drugs. There are countless exposés in history that have brought down abusive politicians and business people thanks to the hard work of journalists – who sometimes have to pay with their lives. (READ: WATCH: Campus journalists on why press freedom matters)

The actions of Duterte will sow fear and undoubtedly discourage investigative journalism. They will also exacerbate our already tarnished reputation as one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world, and one of the most corrupt. Anyone who doesn’t want unscrupulous and thieving politicians exposed makes me think they have a sinister reason for not wanting to.

Finally, let me remind President Duterte of history. It was in 1972 when the strongman and plunderer Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Rule over the country. Aside from jailing his critics, he cracked down on the media, including ABS-CBN, who he saw as critical of his rule. Marcos padlocked their offices and gave the keys to his loyal cronies. He and his wife Imelda then went on their shopping and killing sprees for the next 14 years until their ouster through the popular People Power revolution. (READ: Journalists on press freedom: Be afraid, but do the job)

ABS-CBN returned to the air, and Marcos is forever branded as one of the worst leaders in history. 

As the old cliché goes, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” Hasn’t Duterte learned enough? – Rappler.com 

Rob Julian M. Maghinang is a proud Iskolar ng Bayan from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Manila. His opinions are his alone and do not represent any of the organizations he is affiliated with.

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