Shooting the messenger
In “Shooting the Messenger: Criminalising Journalism,” Andrew Fowler explains why modern-day Western governments have become wary of the legitimate work that journalists do in reporting on the war on terror.
Fowler is an award-winning Australian investigative journalist who also wrote an equally eye-opening book in 2015, “The War on Journalism: Media Moguls, Whistleblowers and the Price of Freedom.”
Through tedious and detailed research and analysis from interviews with key informants, Fowler exposes how governments hide the truth about the war on terror through arguments defending “national security.”
This cloak of national security has been used to cover up strategies to hide the truth from the public. Fowler decries that mass surveillance and antiterror laws, no matter how draconian, are of “questionable value in defeating terrorism.”
When journalists unmask these truths through painstaking, legitimate investigative work, they are being criminalized, and are being attacked for seeking out reliable sources and whistleblowers.
“Shooting the messenger” happens when government executives weaken journalists’ capacities to disclose unpleasant truths. Instead of using a reporter’s information to start an impartial investigation of an incident, a sitting government can unleash its power to condition the mind of the public that the “messenger” — that is, the reporte r— is just a charlatan, a rumormonger, and worse, a paid hack of the so-called enemies of the state.
This tactic is certainly not new.
During the martial law years under Ferdinand Marcos, it was not only journalists who were “shot” at as bearers of the truth; mass media entities that did not toe the martial law line of praising the “New Society” of the dictator and his family were
also closed down.
Last Sept. 14, a firefight took place in Patikul, Sulu, between the military and alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf. After the smoke cleared, the bodies of seven young Tausug men, ages ranging from 16 to 30, were found.
Government military sources reported that these young men were Abu Sayyaf members, and pointed to the firearms near their corpses as evidence.
A veteran Inquirer reporter based in Zamboanga City, Julie S. Alipala, wrote a news report disputing the military claims. She interviewed relatives of the slain youth who repeatedly asserted that their dead were merely picking fruits for them to sell later.
After reportedly getting verbal approval from a military officer in the area, the men proceeded with their fruit picking. At about the same time, the military was engaged in a fierce firefight with some elements of the Abu Sayyaf, but the latter managed to flee.
Civil society members engaged in peace monitoring in the area corroborated Julie’s report, saying that the military turned to the hapless fruit pickers in order to show the military’s success in killing local members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Shortly after Julie’s report was published, a spate of hate messages were posted on her social media wall, complete with her picture captioned “bayarang kulumnista (sic) ng Abu Sayyaf: huwag tularan!”
One message threatened to cut her head off, and to make her a “tokhang” victim, to add her to the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the name of President Duterte’s war on drugs.
Many of Julie’s supporters believe that these messages are part of the concerted efforts of the government’s troll factory, unleashing vociferous comments against perceived critics of the government.
Julie Alipala is being shot at for hearing the side of the otherwise voiceless but reliable sources of information; she is perceived as “siding with the enemy of the state” and ergo, endangering “national security.”
But what does “national security” mean? Whose nation and whose security? Is it the nation of sycophants and the security of the already secured buffoons in the government?
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