Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sacrificing Lambs... (From Manila Times' Manila Jaycees Minutes, Published Jan. 29, 2008)

Sacrificing Lambs
By Golangco, Jasper Lao, JCI-Manila

If you’ve never heard of Dana Batnag before, then I’m pretty sure you already have by now. But for the unenlightened, Dana Batnag, is a reporter of Tokyo-based news company Jiji Press. She’s the journalist currently gracing front pages all over the country for being accused of supposedly helping military fugitives escape in the recent unplanned demolition of the Peninsula Manila’s lobby last November 29, 2007.

What’s interesting is that the only thing the police have going for them is a video of Batnag in dialogue with Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon. I mean, what else do reporters do, right? They don’t have a transcript of their conversation, no written evidence, absolutely nothing substantial. But accused she stands.

Batnag is but the most recent victim of a culture of media vaudeville that requires sacrificial lambs for the appeasement of one’s ego, and the supposed saving of an institution’s face.

Good thing for her, at least she’s still alive. Unlike many of her news and media brethren.

Never in our country’s history has the Filipino free press been more at odds with authority than they are now. The Filipino was never really good at shutting up, so it seems that a few people have taken it upon themselves to shut us up if we don’t want to. Apparently, it’s either journalists shut up, or they die. As per a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a grand total 171 individuals working the fields of journalism and media were killed last year, 2007. Only six less than the 177 who bit the dust last 2006. Now either a news career automatically causes strokes, heart attacks, and stray bullets to randomly fly through a car window, or something’s really fishy.

We’re supposed to be a democracy, where freedom of expression and the press are at the forefront and serve as the most important manifestations of this so-called democracy. In a society where economic freedom is reserved for a fortunate few (who mostly hold government offices), intellectual freedom is what keeps the fires of this country’s soul burning.

Many have accused the press of being too unkind and focusing only on the negative. But this is not entirely true. The press has the thankless job of focusing on what’s prevalent. And if more bad than good things keep happening, then telling the press to talk mostly about good things would be like telling the press to simply close their eyes and ears. And even Helen Keller didn’t like shutting up.

I personally do not know for a fact whether or not the accusations against Batnag are true. Who knows? Evidence may surface showing her to be guilty. But the fact remains that the authorities have chosen to unprofessionally bring out unproven assumptions to the public in the hopes of showing work mileage that essentially goes in circles.

Offering up Dana Batnag as a sacrificial lamb this early without enough evidence will not do anything but remind this country’s citizens that the Philippines can only remain the land of the free, but only if we keep quiet and keep a ten foot pole between us and the people the government doesn’t like.

Not too free at all.

No comments: