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Why are people so keen on protecting media rights and freedom?

Media has existed since time immemorial—even if we didn’t notice it at first. It was even existent during the time of cavemen when they would draw on walls of caves to communicate. Media’s purpose has always been straightforward, which is to send and receive messages—but now, it has taken on a more important role in society. It now serves as an avenue for people to speak out on issues concerning them and the country.

But despite its importance to democracy, threats to media operations have been seen, especially in times when media use has been highly politicized—much like the Martial Law of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. During this era, media was state-controlled and those outlets that didn’t abide by the state’s regulations were shut down.

 

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This can still be observed nowadays, when the state tries to control media and impede its right to free speech. In the Philippines, there are the existing cases against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, and the looming ABS-CBN shutdown; both due to alleged foreign investors which are said to be a contract breach.

Many consider these moves as dictator-like, as it visibly tries to restrict free media—some even held protests to denounce the attempted control on media. But why are people so keen on protecting the rights of and the media itself?

 

Importance of media

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For issues to be brought to light, one uses media—whether through the typical outlet (news or print) or through social media. By speaking out through any form of media, people can pave the way for community development and new discoveries. 

Just look at how children born with cleft conditions are given new smiles because of social media posts promoting awareness for these conditions. Or how people and organizations have been made aware of the situation of people in Buhi, Camarines Sur, who have to cross literal pieces of rope just to get to places. They now have a steel bridge, a lot sturdier than the ropes, thanks to individuals and organizations who saw features of them in the news and contributed to its rehabilitation.

 

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Another notable instance is during the Martial Law era, when people used media, specifically Radio Veritas, to relay requests for food, water, and other necessities. Eventually, the radio station was also used to mobilize the people, which led to the famous People Power Revolution, effectively overthrowing Ferdinand Marcos. Even former University of the Philippines President Francisco Nemenzo said, “Without Radio Veritas, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize millions of people in a matter of hours.”

Indeed, the media plays an important role in democracy and free speech of any country and its citizens. This is why we must protect it all costs because it is what helps us achieve and retain our rights and freedom.

 

 


Text by Katie Rojas. 

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