Subservient Media to Survive
powers-that-be are creating an atmosphere conducive for a subservient
media and a kind of journalism that is biased for the "official line."
The political crisis besetting the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has
reached a point where the latter now desperately needs a subservient media
to politically survive.
In the context of journalism, government officials want docility in the
newsroom. Through this, the powers-that-be expect that journalistic
outputs would depict social reality but mainly from their standpoint,
marginalizing the voices of dissent no matter how newsworthy they might
Statements made last week by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales
and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB)
Chairperson Ma. Consoliza Laguardia prove that this administration expects
the media to project the government in a positive light and to help in
stabilizing the volatile situation, even if this means going against the
basic tenets of journalism like objectivity, fairness and accuracy.
Gonzales warned last August 21 journalists who are allegedly being used
wittingly or unwittingly by the communists in the latter's propaganda
campaign. He claimed to have proof of the "rising influence of the left in
news headlines" but failed to present it.
The MTRCB, on the other hand, gave an X rating to the documentary "Ang
Mabuhay Para sa Masa" (To Live for the Masses) on the life of former
President Joseph Estrada. It previewed the documentary last August 22. In
a letter to the Public Perception Management Asia, Inc., the documentary's
producer, Laguardia said, "The scenes from his (Estrada's) ouster may
undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government
and/or our duly constituted authority as the law provides."
At the same time, the MTRCB also demanded that the producers of Frontline,
a new public affairs show of ABC 5, delete some parts of its episode
titled "Shadow" featuring the shadow government of the New People's Army (NPA).
Arguments like these not only reflect Palace officials' unfamiliarity with
the workings of the press. It also shows that the powers-that-be are
extremely wary of journalists who practice objectivity in their reportage.
For them, a balanced presentation of the national situation threatens the
status quo as the side of the opposition is made known to the people who
then have the option to subscribe to views other than the official line.
When the administration imposed Proclamation 1017 on February 24 that put
the country under a state of national emergency for one week, the
curtailment of press freedom was made evident by the raid on the offices
of the newspaper Daily Tribune and the military's tight watch on other
media agencies. Justifying the raid, then Philippine National Police (PNP)
Director General Arturo Lomibao said the Tribune "was deeply engaged in
continuing propagation of disinformation and publication of seditious and
scurrilous remarks or articles."
Despite the lifting of the state of national emergency, the powers-that-be
have continued the monitoring of journalists suspected to be engaged in
disinformation. National Security Adviser Gonzales said, "(W)e are
profiling everybody as you (the media) are profiling us." Despite the
PNP's denial of surveillance on journalists for any links to the communist
movement, Sr. Supt. Samuel Pagdilao said that other law enforcement
agencies could be conducting this.
It is not a coincidence for Gonzales to raise the issue of the communist's
infiltration of the media as the members of the House of Representatives
were to vote on the impeachment complaint against President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo. In the same way, it is not surprising for the MTRCB to
decide against the full airing of what it deemed is politically sensitive
content at this particular time.
Both Gonzales and Laguardia apparently take their cue from how Malacañang
regards the role of the press in society, not as the Fourth Estate but as
a mere mechanism to promote the government's agenda.
As early as November 2005 in a speech before the Kapisanan ng mga
Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP, Association of Broadcasters in the
Philippines), Macapagal-Arroyo criticized the media for focusing on the
bad news. "(L)et us cast aside the 'bad boy' image that the press has
acquired...I appeal to you not to be used wittingly or unwittingly as
pawns in political games or destabilization schemes."
She even went to the extent of explicitly telling the media what to
report. "The public wants winners. The economy is the only winner here
today amidst these losers who carry no public mandate."
Clearly, the powers-that-be are creating an atmosphere conducive for a
subservient media and a kind of journalism that is biased for the
"official line." In relation to the current political crisis, a
subservient media proves to be the key to the Macapagal-Arroyo
administration's survival. Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.