THIS January 19, the Jesuit Communications and Signis Philippines spearheaded in convening the forum “Catholic Media in Challenging Times,” at the Lay Formation Center in Makati.
The “challenging times” hovered in the thesis of most of the speakers led by no less than Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. But it was only veteran journalist Crispin Maslog, who candidly pointed out during the open forum that “I think our challenge is President Duterte.” Indeed, the incumbency of the current administration maybe said to have marked the dawn of a decisive campaign against the professional media which have been repeatedly tagged by no less than Duterte himself as elitist and a tool of elitists’ agenda. This juggernaut has been perceived to have chilling effect on press freedom and have been read as building blocks from which dictatorships are made of.
It is also during this incumbency that the country saw the rise of “fake news” that were no longer only the work of crackpots and pranksters, but already by organized and presumably heavily funded propagandists. What netizens call “keyboard warriors” (or trolls) are openly let loose like wolf packs ready to gang up and pound on anybody espousing an opposing opinion or a different political color. During the current political watch, news organizations have been threatened with closure or court cases, for one reason or the other. In the same forum, broadcast journalist Howie Severino pointed out that “politics is at the root of the motivation behind fake news.”
These are challenging times, indeed. Not only for the media, but for the media publics that has become the arena in the fight to control public opinion. It is therefore a grace concern for everybody. It is clearly within the ambit of the new evangelization.
In his message for the 2018 World Communications Day, Pope Francis points out that “The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people; people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, the journalists, the protectors of news.”
While admittedly, many local journalists have been sadly engaged to further the cause of political propaganda, it behooves on Catholic Media, among others, to work for the multiplicity of Catholic journalists whose professional convictions are founded on the truth of Gospel.