Corruption in the media is real.
But how do we separate the wheat from the chaff? Who is going to name the “son-of-a-bitches” who deserve to die?
The Journalists Code of Ethics is merely an appeal to the conscience of the journalist. It does not carry any penalty, and rightly so. Because you cannot regulate a profession that exercises freedom of expression without curtailing freedom of expression. If ever there is anyone who could demand a certain demeanor from a journalist, it’s none other than his employer.
But even the employer can only take away his employment, not his profession.
Journalists should not be in the business of policing fellow journalists. And people who are calling us to police our ranks simply do not understand what they are talking about. “Our name is our virtue,” as one song says, a journalist is only responsible for his own reputation.
Some journalists are biased.
But this is largely a perception by a segment of the public that is also biased to a certain ideology, religion, political party, organization personality etc. Many people don’t understand that, ideally and generally, journalists are mere “conduits or mediums” of news and not the “sources” of news. We don’t create news, we simply report them. Meaning, if we write a news that say something bad about Rodrigo Duterte, it doesn’t mean we are against him, and vice versa.
There are enough laws that could be thrown at abusive and corrupt journalists.
The public is not helpless against abusive and corrupt journalists. If our actions constituted violations of laws, the public can bring the cases to the police and the courts. But ordinarily, this perception of a biased, abusive, corrupt press is simply resolved by the public by exercising their freedom of choice; by patronizing the journalist or the media organization that they like and vice versa.
Democracy cannot survive without a free and vibrant media.
The journalists are not the guardians of truth. That is an overstatement. In many cases, we also don’t know what is the truth —just like the public. We endeavor to seek or bring out the truth. But as we all know, even the rigidity of a court trial sometimes also fails to find out what is the truth. Only God knows what is the truth.
What is true, however, is that journalists are the most passionate and active practitioners of the freedom of expression. The extent by which we can practice our freedom to express is the same extent that the common people can also express themselves.
If someone from a position of power could call the mob to lynch journalists over perceived bias, abuse or corruption, the common people also face the same threat or danger.
Democracy functions through a myriad of tenets and decrees on “checks and balances.” Not one entity is given so much power as to dominate the government. The Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary are equal branches of government — not one is below and not one is above. But all these three branches of government are under the “sovereign will of the people.”
And then comes the Fourth Estate — to be the conduit of facts, information and opinions so that a sufficiently informed people can exercise its sovereign will.
*The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.