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Community media as ‘Torch of Freedom’

 

 

JOHNNY DAYANG echoes

IT’S now 2019. The recent self-immola­tion by a Tunisian photo journalist who burned himself to death to high­light his “government neglect,” brings to the fore once again the trag­ic plight the press faces in making the pursuit of the media profession productive.

Such unsettling de­velopment echoes also the plight of country­side Filipino journalists whose mission to bring first-hand news to the public has long been threatened by the failure of their agencies to give them decent work secu­rity, legal support, and reasonable pay.

Notwithstanding the deficiencies community media players face in the pursuit of their call­ing, they still lead when it comes to getting the stories from sources and telling events the way they happen. It’s a duty that is seldom high­lighted with praises, and often derided as un­friendly.

As the “torch of press freedom,” community media players, despite their limitations, remain as vital instruments in ensuring a vibrant demo­cratic space where ac­cess to truth prevails. The role of the com­munity media gets more trying given the threats, challenges, and dangers perpetrated by some in­stitutions and individuals who use public office as an instrument of oppres­sion.

It’s ironic that while the community media stand as the harbinger of truth, its players gener­ally lack access to tools that make the perfor­mance of their essential duties easy. This reality gets highlighted when they are confronted with legal cases and are often left alone to fend for themselves.

Corruption irrefutably remains rampant in high places of governance that needs to be ex­posed. Reporting these abuses to the public from remote villages is a responsibility the com­munity press struggles to accomplish. Without the support of concerned citizens, they are always in a quandary on how to bring out the news without sacrificing their lives.

Globally, the Commit­tee on the Protection of Journalists said some 348 journalists languish in jail today, 60 are be­ing held hostages, and 80 were killed in 2018. Worse, records with the media watchdog Report­ers Without Borders in­dicate that in the last 10 months at least 75 media personalities were killed around the world.

In the Philippines, the statistics are more dis­turbing. Since 1986 the number of Filipino jour­nalists killed, most of them rural-based, has reached 164. With the media becoming the fo­cus of attacks, covering events and reporting the news have become dangerous frontline mis­sions.

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