IN THE PHILIPPINES, thousands of Filipinos have heavily advocated freedom of the press because of their awareness of the importance of media. The same goes for the rest of the world in giving out the news that matters most to everyone.
As a testament to this, our country was once hailed as “Asia’s freest press,” owing to the scale with which the media took the country in the early ‘50s and ‘60s. Whether it has something to do with the rising prices of consumer goods or the political decisions made by the government, it’s always relevant to look at certain points that showcase the struggles of the press and why they are significant.
To spread awareness
Gone are the days when everyday folks had to wait weeks to be updated on the recent news. Instead, with one motion of the finger – a click, a scroll, or a slide – people are up to date with what’s happening in their locality and worldwide.
To illustrate, history tells us the importance of the media with the freedom of the press. During the regime of former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, people were blind because they were unaware of the atrocities around them. News of someone getting killed, tortured, or kidnapped rarely hits households, especially those in remote places.
Looking at our world now, even the smallest pieces of information reach millions. It is one of the main reasons abusive public officers get held accountable for all their wrongdoings or why criminals on the loose get identified. As citizens, the media is one of our greatest weapons against injustice and ignorance. It is the principal instrument to spread awareness.
To educate the people
With awareness comes knowledge. The use of media has boosted people’s accessibility to learning – whether that be academic-related, self-related, or politically-related. It is evident that Gen Zs or Zoomers are more socially and politically aware, as early as their early teens, compared to older generations.
Thirteen-year-olds can narrate what transpired decades long before they were born. They can tell us the meaning of red-tagging and distinguish the concepts of between apolitical and political. This boils down to their ability to stay educated on the integral events that affect the citizenry, ultimately leading to their ability to become open-minded and educated.
Hence, the same only highlights the importance of the press concerning the media. By empowering the press to continue publishing reports and articles that teach and inform the people, curiosity and the love for knowledge are fostered, leading to an enlightened society capable of discernment.
To prevent fake news
Fake news has always been a grave problem in the Philippines because of how massive and fast misinformation spreads throughout the country. According to the Social Weather Station (SWS) back in December 2021, not only do 69% of Filipinos believe that fake news is a problem, 51% of them find it difficult to distinguish what is real news from not. Because of this, it has already been rooted in the system and leads to people making uneducated decisions.
The press holds the responsibility of spreading correct and factual information to the people. Through their continuous hard work and research, they can inform the public about what is happening worldwide.
To keep the government in check
Another primary purpose of the press and why its freedom must be protected is to create a sense of transparency between the government and the people. So, there is a reason as to why the media asks specific questions, even if it’s critical to the State – because the people deserve to know. When administrations such as the previous ones called out particular media outlets such as ABS-CBN and Rappler presents an adverse meaning of press freedom.
Press freedom is threatened once a government chases out a particular press if they become critical towards them – which should not be the case. The fact that the media is asking tough questions to officials does not mean opposition already but rather making sure that the people’s questions will be answered honestly. Transparency is needed. Therefore, being critical is required.
To provoke discussions
Due to what the press is posting, whether it be about national politics or what is happening in society, these posts create a spark of discussion. Telenor Asia contributes to this discussion and states that 77% of Filipinos converse primarily on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As a result, this shows how powerful social platforms can be, and with that, the press should maximize this function.
Considering that social media has already been another place of information for people to look at, the press should be able to track down the fake news being posted online by trolls clamoring for attention. If this continues and the press cannot check on this matter, it will cause more problems for society.
To protect democracy
With all of those significant talking points explained, one can conclude that press freedom is a major player in protecting the democracy of a country. East Asia Forum stated in an article that media freedom is the ‘lifeblood’ of Philippine democracy. If the state threatens it, particularly the leader of the state, it gives off a chilling effect against those who criticize them.
As the saying goes, criticisms are accepted when objections are due. Therefore, the state should acknowledge the press’s vital role in letting people know what the government is doing for society, as mentioned in the third previous point, which is checking on the state. Therefore, within the country, Press Freedom must be manifested; otherwise, it would lead to a parlous impression of the state.
It is no less than the Supreme Court which stated: “The strength of democracy lies not in the rights it guarantees but in the courage of the people to invoke them whenever they are ignored or violated. Rights are but weapons on the wall if, like expensive tapestry, all they do is embellish and impress. Rights, as weapons, must be a promise of protection. They become truly meaningful, and fulfill the role assigned to them in the free society, if they are kept bright and sharp with the use by those who are not afraid to assert them.”
(With Melaiza Andrea V. Flores)
Cartoon by Mauri Fernandez