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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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When the truth will set us free

Stifling the media and the truth opens the door to runaway skullduggery, corruption and dictatorship

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When the truth will set us free

A Filipino activist takes part in a demonstration calling for the defense of press freedom during Press Freedom Day in Manila in this  May 3 file photo. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

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If there is one thing that humans hunger and thirst for, it is the truth. Knowledge is vital for human learning, survival, safety, progress and interpersonal and social relationships.

At the beginning of human kind, knowing where in the forest to gather food, how to hunt and be alert to danger was a life or death learning process.

Millions of students strive to learn and graduate and qualify for a job to support themselves and a family. Knowing the truth about people and society is essential for a successful personal relationship and a harmonious peaceful and integrated community life.

The freedom to know and publish the truth is essential for a peaceful, harmonious society and for true democracy to succeed and human rights to be protected. It is a free, intelligent, reliable media, worthy, tested and proven, that is essential for a free democratic and just society.

That’s why lying, spreading false information, making propaganda, writing fake news stories and manipulation of the media is so detrimental to a healthy society free from fear and oppression.

When the freedom of the media and the truth is stifled and covered up, the way is open for runaway skullduggery, corruption and dictatorship.

Clever politicians lie carefully, craftily and believably to gain people’s trust, support, and votes. Others don’t care and lie continually, thinking that if they do it frequently enough, the tsunami of lies will be believed.

Politicians tend to react angrily to the truth when it is critical of them. What is true, they say, is false. What is right, they say, is wrong and what is good, they say, is bad. Their only refuge is denial and branding the truth as fake news.

Politicians with dictatorial tendencies, engaging in corrupt practices, accumulating wealth illegally and violating the rights of the people to stay in power cannot tolerate an open, free probing press. Their first move is to try and bring the media under government control.

Investigative Russian journalist Ivan Golunov was a thorn and threat to the rich oligarchs and business tycoons in cahoots with corrupt politicians in Moscow. To silence him, police allegedly planted drugs in his backpack and in his apartment and arrested and jailed him.

However, in an unusual and rare response, the government media, normally adoring and subservient to President Putin, was shocked. There was widespread public outrage and social media was awash with condemnation. Three main government newspapers came out in solidarity with Ivan Golunov and had the same front-page message, "We are Golunov."
The government was shaken and dropped the charges, freed him from jail and suspended the senior police involved in the frame up. The police were enraged, too, at Ivan.

Critics of Russian government officials have a habit of getting shot or convicted on false charges. He was beaten up and hospitalized after being released. Crowds of supporters met him on his release, staged a protest and were arrested.

It was a rare media and public awakening and outcry that brought about his release.

Journalists are illegally arrested all over the world on trumped up charges — the Philippines is no different.

On June 9, Margarita Valle, 61, a columnist with the Davao Today newspaper, was arrested at the airport in Cagayan de Oro. She was held for nine hours in Pagadian until help came and police then admitted that they had made a mistake. Bishop Ronald Lunas of Pagadian gave her protection.

The National Press Club of the Philippines has called on the government to solve the murder of journalist Adam Moraleta, 56, an executive in a government television station who was shot on June 6, near his house in Manila’s Quezon City. Moraleta was the third member of the National Press Club to be killed in the last five years.

At least 185 journalists have been assassinated in the Philippines since 1986. Twelve journalists have been murdered since 2016. The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist after Afghanistan and Syria.

Most Philippine journalists are true to their profession to report the truth and safeguard the rights of press freedom, come what may. They are mostly resilient, brave and courageous people who endure the dangers of false charges, harassment and even death.

The manipulation of social media by paid trolls spreading false stories, placing misleading headlines and promoting political propaganda is also a worldwide phenomena and a grave danger to true democracy.

Media practitioners dedicated to publishing the truth are the defenders of democratic, moral and spiritual values. The truth will mobilize public opinion and feelings of outrage at wrongdoing and corruption will bring tyrants, criminals and thieves to justice as we have seen many times worldwide.

Honest, committed journalists are also called upon to be defenders of human rights and dignity. They are the last stand against the oppression of the powerful and the corrupt. They will endure, prosper and succeed.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of ucanews.com.

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