MAAYONG ADLAW! AKO gali si Tords — May marks the celebration of World Press Freedom Day. It’s the symbolism of any individual in the field of journalism to be able to exercise their rights to freely voice out and report anything that matters to the public without harm from anyone who wishes to do so. Essentially, this is the very pillar of a democratic society. When regimes and fascist dictators arise, the media is usually one of the very first things they take away.
The documentary How to Become a Tyrant caught my eye during the pandemic. The docu-series is based on the book The Dictators Handbook; both literary pieces remain a particular favorite of mine. One specific episode from the show comes to mind as the UN and the world celebrate World Press Freedom Day. This is episode four, entitled ‘Control the Truth.’
Several fascist governments, autocrats, and dictators in history have their way of tearing and blinding the people. But essentially, they apply the same rule in their ‘tyrannical playbook.’ The most famous one to utilize this is none other than Adolf Hitler, the dictator who terrifyingly reigned over Nazi Germany and catalyzed World War 2 with his invasion of Poland. To maintain and show power and try to censor any source of information that may elicit critical thinking, Hitler ordered to burn this. As a result, works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers ended up in the bonfires of different places in Germany.
The Philippines had its share of ‘media-control’ in ‘72-’81. It was in the form of shutdowns of all media outlets except one newspaper, one television network, and several radio stations that had been serving as mouthpieces for the previous President Ferdinand E. Marcos — editorials and opinions such as the one I am writing now would have been barred and would not be allowed to be printed, as commentary would only serve as inflames for the administration.
Looking into it, some individuals would claim that censorship is good, and maybe these autocrats would try to sell the idea to the general public from that particular perspective. Allegedly, it can benefit society by restricting access to dangerous or inappropriate material that may negatively affect people’s lives. It can seemingly promote social harmony and nationalism. They sell the idea of Eutopia with media censorship.
It might be essential to note that with censorship, we water down information to the general public; leading to ignorance and wholly narrow perspectives. Whistleblowers continue to be silenced and persecuted, and their propagandists hog the attention and preach like puppets.
In a democratic and idealistic society, the expansion of the freedom of the press is needed as they need to be the watchdogs of the powerful. Being able to freely tell and chase a news scope without the thought of being harmed by the president or his cronies should be exercised freely.
The diversification of universities, particularly in terms of critical thinking and academic freedom, has to be continuously pushed forward. Likewise, the academe must be forward-thinking to ensure their students are aware of challenging times. Censoring books and handing out only certain information only promotes ignorance and will only lead to blind followers.
I’d like to end this with a challenge to you and me, as students of San Beda — to move forward, speak, write, and never give in to the fear of censorship. Nothing is more horrifying than one day succumbing to the fear of being silenced.