We always hear politicians accusing the media of being biased and unfair in their delivery of news. President Rodrigo Duterte has in fact been vocal about his distaste with the media, especially given how he is always painted in a negative light. He didn’t even shy away from accusing media of being biased in the middle of interviews.
This begs the questions, should the media always be fair in treating politicians? Is Duterte right in accusing the media of being biased against him? To answer these questions straight forward, it’s both a yes and a no.
The need for fairness
There are different types of articles published by the media. There’s straight news where only facts are being delivered and there’s opinion, where journalists express their personal stance regarding the issues presented.
For straight news, it is imperative for journalists to only give what is asked. In the delivery of news, the people don’t need to know what the journalists personally think about the issue. It must contain the responses to the basic questions of what, when, where, who, why and how.
It is imperative to be fair in providing news to allow the people to give their own judgment. If they are provided with facts without any bias, they can formulate their opinions, and it is essential in a healthy democracy.
There are also some people who don’t want to be dictated on what they should believe in. They make decisions based on what they hear on the news and their personal experiences. For the media to be an effective tool in delivering what people need to know, they have to be fair. Otherwise, people will be deprived of the opportunity to hear the facts. This can also be a bit dangerous in a sense that they might be pushed to look for facts elsewhere.
This drives them to the darker abyss of the Internet where fake news organizations present themselves as sources of facts. If mainstream media couldn’t be a credible source of unbiased information, this gives more credibility to fake news.
Being biased towards the truth
The main goal of media organizations is to deliver the truth. This is why they have to be biased in favor of the truth. This might be deemed unfair by politicians, but it has to be done. There are several options for the media to cast some light on the truth. They can write editorials. They can also provide opinions via talk radio. Shows centered on analyzing political issues may also be a good avenue.
The media is usually given the opportunity to be in the middle of the news as it happens. They know more and they can provide a more in-depth analysis. Hence, they have to make use of this power to help the people make an informed decision. This is also essential in a healthy democracy.
The media must not be crippled if they speak their minds out. Criticizing the government for its policies must not be deemed as biased. Instead, it should be a strong voice to allow the government to function at its best. This lets them know that by doing actions that are illegal or unfavorable to the people, there will be consequences.
We have witnessed several times in history when the media helped changed the course of this country. It was because of the relentless media that the dark secrets of the corrupt Marcos administration started to unfold. It was also because of the media that we have gotten into the bottom of sensational issues like the Napoles scam or the Hello Garci scandal. Let’s not forget the number of corrupt local politicians who were booted out of the office because they were exposed by the local media.
Aside from having a strong voice, the media also has the power to ask tough questions. They place the politicians on a difficult position. This allows the people to see whether or not they are telling the truth. It also lets the people understand where their leaders stand on certain issues, especially when caught off guard. These tough questions extract the truth from the politicians. Hence, they have to keep pounding.
Let’s empower the media
The Philippines ranks among the worst countries in the world when it comes to the safety of journalists. We are among the ranks of countries with a dictatorship like Iraq, Syria or Sudan. This is due to the number of extra judicial killings involving the media.
This only means that instead of treating them as the enemy, we have to empower them. Whether we like how journalists voice their opinion out or not, it doesn’t matter. The point is that outside the three branches of the government, we have a 4th one that serves as an actual check.
Yes, there are paid media organizations and even fake ones for that matter. Not all of them operate in the same manner. There are a lot of passionate journalists who simply want to be the voice for the Filipino people.
If the criticize the leaders we have come to love, let us understand them. Listening to them is one thing. Believing in what they say is another. It is better that we at least hear from them rather than the time when we are left in the dark. Let’s not go back to the Marcos era when major news outlets were shut down and only state media was allowed to provide the news.
We only feel bad because we don’t want what we hear. Sadly, it is what news is all about. It is not always about what we want to hear. Truth always hurts, but in the end, it would be in our best interest to hear it.
Image via PresidentialCom Facebook. Some rights reserved.
This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) .