Danger signs
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - July 26, 2013 - 12:00am

For the past several years now especially with the advent of high tech gadgets, more and more people are resorting to various means or channels of mass communications like print, radio, TV and cyber space. They indiscriminately air and publicize their grievances, grudges, complaints and accusations, or just about anything they want others to do, to know and believe in, to acquire and even to fight for. Sometimes they even use media to “wash their dirty linens in public.” These latest developments in our country are really enough causes for concern because of their dangerous consequences which are not easily discernible. Sometimes we don’t even realize how dangerous they are.

Undoubtedly because of advances in modern technology, media has become the most powerful tool of mass communication. In fact they are sometimes referred to as the “fourth estate” because they have become so powerful that they have been regarded as the “fourth branch” of government with the same status as the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. Indeed some people even look at media as more powerful or more “reliable” than the judiciary so they go to them instead of going to court. 

With such kind of power comes the tendency on the part of members of media to abuse or misuse it. It is quite obvious that some of our journalists have allowed others to use them for some self serving propaganda purposes or for attainment of sinister designs. More dangerous here is that media practitioners sometimes allow themselves to be used for and in consideration of something “valuable.” Indeed this is the practice that led to the coining of the phrase, “envelope-mental journalism.”

Whether or not for valuable consideration, exploiting media has indeed many dangerous and harmful effects in our society and the workings of our democracy. This is especially true when there is lack of due care in the publication or airing of some items, or when there is a tendency to present them as the truth and nothing but the truth. And in our country where there are still a lot of people who are easily impressed or readily taken in and deceived by what they read, hear or see, the danger becomes more worrisome. More so in this day and age when the visual means of communication have so many gadgets that make pictures and images appear real and true to life with the use of “camera tricks” or the latest technology in cyber space known as “photoshop.”

Most noticeable here of course are the kind of public officials we have elected. It cannot be denied that almost all of them are products of media and/or have used media extensively to convince people to vote for them. Thus most of those occupying seats in Congress and in the national and local executive posts are either sports or movie celebrities or people who have lots of logistics to spend for campaign ads in media. Indeed because of the growing list of aspirants for any elective office, they already have a distinct advantage and invariably win in the polls because of their “name recall” acquired through constant exposure in media. Thus our election has now become more of a popularity contest than a contest among the most competent and qualified candidates for the position. Now, the performance and achievements of any administration are measured by their acceptance ratings in poll surveys regularly conducted rather than by the concrete and tangible steps it has taken directly felt by the people themselves.

The more dangerous aspect here is the use of media to put pressure on some government officials or agencies to act one way or the other. This is very evident especially under the present administration which has resorted to media for purposes of “convincing” especially Congress, the other political branch very much concerned with its popularity, to do its bidding.

This is very noticeable in two instances. First in the impeachment of a Chief Justice where there were almost simultaneous hearings of the case in the Senate and in the bar of public opinion. Second, in the passage of several controversial bills that has sharply divided the nation particularly one bill where some media personalities have been used by foreign lobbyists with huge financial clout to push for its passage. And that media pressure is now shifted to and felt by the Supreme Court where said bill is under question because of its unconstitutionality.

But the most dangerous and harmful yet are the sensational scams and rubouts now splashed all over the pages of newspapers and clogging the airwaves and TV screens. Actually these are matters that may eventually reach the courts. But right now there are already on-going “trials” conducted in the media and by media people interviewing the victims, the possible witnesses, the accusers and the accused.

In the case of the P10 billion pork-barrel scam, no less than the DOJ and its NBI are embroiled in the controversy as media joined the fray by enabling the persons involved to present its case and to destroy the testimonies of the witnesses of the government. In fact one radio program of a well known media personality has been devoting more time to the side of the supposed perpetrator of the scam. Even this administration seems to have already condemned the Senators whose pork barrels were supposed to have been used. The most harmful effect here is that reputations have already been tarnished even before court trial has been conducted.

This is especially true in the case of the PNP as far as the allegedly “rubout” of the notorious Ozamis gang leaders is concerned. Again the DOJ seem to have been preempting the court by claiming that their witnesses to the incident are credible. Again because of this unnecessary and undue media coverage, the PNP’s reputation have been further soiled. The worst part here is that the prosecution may have been telegraphing its punches as to enable the adverse party to prepare for its defense. This is what happened to the Ampatuan massacre so many years ago but is just to be heard by the court after witnesses have already died or disappeared.

Most unfortunately, the greatest casualty in this undue media coverage is the truth.

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com






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