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Analysis

Aquino stokes adversarial role of media

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President Aquino started the new year by picking a fight with the independent news media. Firing broadsides at his critics in the press, he pledged that as his New Year’s resolution, he would “just ignore” them.

He castigated his press critics, calling them “hopeless” and saying they belonged to a “cottage industry… of people who make a living out of criticizing” him.

“They see nothing good in whatever I say and [in my efforts] at solving the problems of this country,” he said.

In defining the media as a “cottage industry,” the President betrayed a gross misconception of the function of the press in a democratic society and trivialized the principle on which the relationship between the press and the government pivots.

The President’s speech refueled the antagonistic relationship between the press and his administration during the first half of his term. It put the administration on a confrontational path with the media from which the government had little to gain.

Ignoring media criticism slams the shutters on a healthy debate over contentious issues involving the administration’s lackluster performance in revitalizing the economic growth and responding promptly to the emergency needs of thousands of victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in the Visayas.

The press is not craving to return the presidential snub and is also ignoring him.

Delusion

The administration will be deluding itself if it expects the media to go easy on scrutinizing its performance.

On the contrary, the press is more likely to intensify criticism to counter the deluge of information produced by the government’s vast propaganda machine, presenting the administration’s point of view on contentious issues and defending its policies and programs using taxpayer money.

The press cannot disengage from scrutinizing the administration’s performance without being remiss in its function and responsibility as the watchdog of public interest.

Journalists do not look at their coverage of the presidency the way the administration sees it. They take their jobs and public responsibility seriously, reporting public affairs accurately without fear or favor.

Journalists cover Malacañang and the presidential retinue not because they love to be seen with government officials. In covering public affairs, they are keenly aware of their role as the eyes and ears of the people, to whom they owe primary loyalty. They cannot be the government’s propaganda mouthpiece.

In covering the presidency and public affairs, the journalists abide by the creed that reporting the news from the seat of power is too important to be entrusted in the hands of government propagandists, much more so now that the President controls the legislature, the center for countervailing political power under our system of checks and balances among the three branches of government.

Balance

The balance has been undermined by the weakness of the multiparty system in which there is no strong opposition party, thrusting on the independent press the burden of serving as the platform for the expression of ideas and perspectives contrary to that of the government.

The presidency is the most important source of news on public affairs that affects our lives. It sets the agenda of the public debate. What the President does or fails to do have an impact on our lives.

This is the reason an independent press is crucial to scrutinizing government policies, programs and decisions. This is the reason the media cannot disengage from focusing on government activities. They must keep government officials on their toes by making them aware that they are under constant watch for performance.

The press is called upon to dispel the administration’s claim that journalists are a class of people “who make a living out of criticizing” the President.

Mr. Aquino’s resolution to ignore his critics puts a stop to the dialogue between the government and the press on the validity of policies and programs. It blacks out the exchange, indicating intolerance of a review of its actions and errors.

The freedom of the press is defined by “Your Dictionary” as “a right guaranteed in the United States by the First Amendment for journalists to print whatever they want without government control.”

“The right of a journalist to write an article critical of the president is an example of freedom of the press.”

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  • Student

    I find some columnists criticism on the President in some newspapers are relentless.

    Any reasonable person will wonder if he is really that as they portray him to be, since no matter how bad a person is, there is some goodness in him. Did any other President ever get this kind of treatment from the “media”?

    Suppose that their charge of incompetence of President Aquino, and corruption of some previous Presidents are true, is incompetence much worse than corruption?

    Criticisms are necessary but some have nothing to do with his being President. In the meantime, criticisms that do not help him run the country distract and scatter the goodwill for his administration. This is not helping the Philippines! And yet we complain loudly the about the state in which the Philippine is in. Where is the logic in this situation?

    • http://www.yahoo.com JOSE RIZAL

      It’s for him to act according to the needs of the time. And we need him to be MAN enough not to say HE’S HELPLESS in the most recent power rate hike long after he made the “IF YOU WANT STABLE ELECTRICITY, THEN PAY THE PREMIUM” classic historical pronouncement.
      That pronouncements didn’t come from his critics’ mouth.
      IT only appears that he is, indeed, IMMATURE, in handling things that he, himself has been creating…
      Pathetic!

      • Descarte5E

        Did he even think that even government offices and facilities would be paying higher costs of electricity that were not in the budget?

  • joshmale2004

    I’ve read again and again that speech of the President and he never mentioned the media as the one constantly criticizing him. If you read fully and understand, he was aiming at the oppositions and their early campaigning using constant bombardment of everything the Government do.

  • talagalangha

    Kelan pa ba mag EDSA uli, naiinip na ako….!

  • AllinLawisFair

    You have the right to criticise what you believe in principle to be wrong. But criticising simply because you have a pathological dislike for the person is never right.

    A fair and unbiased approach for a columnist or commentator should be to give credit or calumny to where it is due.

    Certainly the president has don something good for this country, too, but have you ever written any kind word for that?

  • bangopuwet

    What Lnot said was to ignore his critics and not the media. Doronilla err Doronilla put malice in this column to make it appear that Pnoy is at war with media. We know you as a lapdog of Arroyo under her administration then. Circumventing the fact is so easy for you for you have been doing this for the rest of your life.

  • bangopuwet

    *Pnoy

  • Student

    I am beginning to suspect that this unrelenting attack on the President has something to do with the passing of the RH bill. Others are just baiting by being obnoxious in order to elicit a response to stimulate themselves. You can spot them by being irrational, this last group.

  • Szerelem

    Aquino does not have to agree with anything he hears or reads, but he cannot treat honest and legitimate criticism with contempt.

    For Aquino to declare that he will henceforth no longer listen to any critic is to declare that he will have the last word on everything without allowing the slightest debate.

    Now that’s the mark of a truly immature, incompetent president bereft of wisdom.

    • Mamang Pulis

      but he cannot treat honest and legitimate criticism with contempt.

      maybe –just maybe—simeon is talking about below par criticism….

      gets?

  • blowcoldblowhot

    It will be very difficult for Noynoy to earn the trust and respect of the Filipino people, and other peoples of the world, now that they have seen the real Noynoy who always claims to listen to his bosses — the people. What a fake!

  • blowcoldblowhot

    The problem with Noynoy is that he has been protected too long by his mainstream yellow media always so much so that he was hardly ever criticized or blamed directly. There may have been criticisms in the past, but always these were directed at the general government,” never Noynoy directly, even when it was much too clear that he was known to have bribed congressmen and senators to get his way, whether in the passage of legislative measures, or for the impeachment and conviction of his political foes, whether it is Gloria Arroyo, or then Chief Justice Renato Corona and even non-allies.
    Pnoy should learn to roll with the criticisms — especially the negative ones. These are what he needs, to shape up. Being protected by his yellow media and yellow manipulated surveys won’t help him at all. One never learns from his mistakes as long as he merely listens to “good news” and praises, for the truth never lodges in them.

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