What we lost fighting over
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Once again many members of media and those claiming to be supportive of media and Freedom of the Press are making their views heard and read in defense of Journalist Maria Ressa or in defense of President Rodrigo Duterte. This column however is not about them but about a bunch of free loaders hoping to get media mileage from the current Libel related feud. What sickens me are those political re-electionists who are riding on the bandwagon chiming out their support for Press Freedom and calling out to “authorities” to be humane! What a bunch of hypocrites!

Hello?! In between 1992 and 2019 what real recognizable efforts have any of you members of Congress and the Senate done that qualifies as a determined, persistent and organized effort for the eradication or decriminalization of Libel? If you Fakes really support Freedom of the Press how come all we ever hear from you sorry losers is lip service? Your press release or sound byte that has a shelf life of 24 hours are all self-serving and shows how stupid you think the media are: assuming that we will all be so happy to believe that you are on our side! What a cheap shot at publicity just to be re-elected or to be in the news for free!

If you are earnestly concerned for Freedom of the Press more than your Public Relations with members of the media, then you who spout your concern ought to have done so at the very first instance and at every turn and event where we as professionals were stifled, blocked, charged or attacked! Scores of journalists, broadcasters and professional crews have been killed, attacked or fired from their jobs because we investigated corruption. If legislators and those re-electionists believed in Freedom of the Press then how come there is no law that requires networks and the likes to allocate air time for independent producers outside of “cable TV”? If there is a sincere interest in keeping Freedom of the Press healthy, then how come our “Media perfect” Senators and Congressmen never bothered to investigate the well-being, compensation and benefits of media workers?

I became a carnapping victim while doing a series on Mansions of Military generals, later I was removed from a radio program for supporting the BIR in its tax war against a rich and powerful individual. Advertising was more important than ratings or righteousness. My father ended up being charged with Libel by a sitting President for using a figure of speech. Until he died, Louie Beltran believed that Cory was misled and misinformed by two cabinet members whose activities my father regularly criticized and exposed. My father at least got lip service and lies from politicians. I quietly trudged on while cutting notches on my belt of reality and experience.

Quite frankly, so many people easily raise the banner of Press Freedom as if Freedom of the Press was just about Libel or censorship. It is ironic that we all think there is Freedom of the Press in the Philippines given the reality that Congress holds the power to issue or revoke a “Franchise to Operate” a media outfit. Yes, the “Congress” as defined by George Washington or Benjamin Franklin during their time was and is supposed to be representative of the people's will, but in the Philippines they are no more than merchants who have “weaponized” public office against their political and commercial enemies! The Press, ideally, is supposed to have neither Fear nor Favor, but ask any owner of any media outfit honest enough to speak and they could tell you that there is fear and most certainly lots of Favors “owed” as in “Utang na loob” which they are perpetually reminded of especially before campaign time and elections.

In fact this barely-talked-about business model of government and Congress is the very reason why independent media outlets have all disappeared and reappeared as absorbed, purchased companies of mega corporations. Once Congress or government targets a media company, it simply hemorrhages, shrinks, loses advertisers or loses a franchise and dies. There are sensational stories such as the Inquirer and Rappler but there are also “silent movies” where we never hear a sound and never see the media outfit ever again.

The current struggle of Maria Ressa and Rappler versus their accuser Mr. Keng and the imagined backer, the Duterte administration, is simply just another bone everyone is fighting over because of political manipulation between the DU30s and the Yellows. They will all have their day in court while the rest of Philippine media allow themselves to get sucked into the misleading notion that competition is good for business. No it is not because Media is not supposed to be a business and we are not supposed to be competitors. We fight the same battles and should not be fighting or bashing each other. That is the work of the devil, not a media professional. For so long, we have been led out of pride and greed to try to beat the competition with a scoop, inside story, better resources and bragging rights. That’s what happened to our elders in the trade right before Martial Law. One day they all woke up in the same detention camp, sharing bunks, praying for each other, encouraging each other, commiserating with each other. By then it was too late and it would take over a decade to regain what was lost. But we never got it back because once again, they made a business out of Freedom of the Press.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com.

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