Dangers of working in the media

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THE GRUESOME murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was another bitter reminder of how media men are still killed in the line of duty –that is, for reporting the truth.

Khashoggi, in his last column for the Washington Post, called for an Arab world where the press and the people could freely write about issues without facing threats or censorship from their governments.

What was ironic and at the same time, unsurprising, was that he was murdered for the very same cause that he had been fighting for.

Jamal Khashoggi, upon entering the Saudi consulate, was strangled and his body dismembered. The latest information as of writing was that his body was dissolved in acid.

His murder is one of the many cases of media-related killings, not only in the Arab region but in the whole world as well, counting, of course, the Philippines.

This year, the Philippines ranked fifth for the second consecutive year in the 2018 Global Impunity Index for being among countries that fail to resolve cases of media killings.

Shameful as it already is, we were joined by South Sudan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia –as if we find our country in the same turmoils or unrest as these countries do.

But maybe it’s high time to admit: we are no different from them, much less our leaders do, for the way journalists or those who report the truth are treated.

For one, impunity killings in this country have prevailed thanks to a foul-mouthed president whose words have fueled the fire of his supporters to subject journalists who report critically of him and the policies of his administration to intimidation, harassment and even death threats.

Those in power attack the press because they are afraid of the bitter truth. And in doing so, they are exposed to the different kinds of dangers in doing their duty.

The shallow and narrow-minded would try to justify these murders as something normal, with others, including President Duterte, saying some journalists are killed because they are corrupt or biased.

But is killing in any form or manner, regardless of who he is or what he has done, normal in any humane society?

One would hope that politicians suffer the same fate as some journalists did for being “corrupt” but alas, that is not the case.

Perhaps the greatest reminder that the dangers of working in the media are true would be no less than the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, where 32 out of the 58 killed were journalists.

On Nov. 23, the case will mark its 9th year, but convictions have yet to be given. Surely, there is no need for repetition of such event to wake up public sympathy for those murdered for speaking truth to power.

Some of the worst dangers to the media today take the form of such miscreants as Duterte, Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and others–who seem to do nothing but spew lies, confusion and hatred which results in the continued ignorance or mediocre and uncritical attitude of most Filipinos.

But those who tirelessly attempt to bring down the press as an institution should not mistake these dangers as a red light for journalists. As they say, no story is worth dying for. But media men have gone beyond that mile before so that truth may come out. What would make them think that this would be any different?

Media-related killings are true, as they have happened and are happening. But should we let it continue? To those in power who have something to hide from their people, the answer is creeping, silent “Yes” that will allow this culture of impunity and silencing the messengers of truth to prevail.

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