Friday, August 16, 2013

A Turkish journalist calls it like it is . . .

In Turkey media bosses are undermining democracy,” wrote Yavuz Baydar. [The New York Times, 19th Jul 2013] “The protests that convulsed Istanbul and other Turkish cities . . . exposed, among other things, the shameful role of Turkish’s media conglomerates in subverting press freedom . . . The plague of sanitized media coverage goes far beyond Turkey. Across the globe, and especially in . . . struggling democracies like Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, the Philippines, South Africa, Hungary and Albania, the lack of media independence is doing real damage . . . Media executives . . . kowtowing to governments to protect their other business interests are undermining the freedom and independence of the press that is vital to establishing and consolidating a democratic political culture.”

Dirty alliances between governments and media companies and their handshakes behind closed doors damage journalists’ role as public watchdogs and prevent them from scrutinizing cronyism and abuses of power. And those who benefit from a continuation of corrupt practices also systematically prevent serious investigative journalism . . . The problem is simple: one need only to follow the money . . . [M]ainstream media is owned by moguls who operate in other major sectors of the economy like telecommunications, banking and construction . . . [M]edia moguls have been given extensive favors through public-works contracts . . . It is not possible to conduct serious journalism in such a polluted system . . . An autonomous public broadcaster that serves as a focal point for good journalism, far away from commercial concerns and government influence, would enhance public debate in . . . a number of democracies . . . like South Africa and the Philippines.”

Why are our neighbors able to attract foreign direct investments at levels we couldn’t even imagine? The rest of the world is not as naïve as we think, like the Turkish journalist who was able to do research on our brand of democracy – and bunched us with the likes of Venezuela and Albania? Should the MMDA chief be offended and write the New York Times because the piece is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s “gates of hell” – which, by the way, was a work of fiction not a scathing rebuke of our reality, that of our “biggest success model,” oligopoly?

Are we on the wrong track . . . to the common good . . . that Juan de la Cruz ought to be in tears? How could we, for instance, be holier-than-thou and celebrate oligopoly on the one hand, while being proud of an economy that is riding on the backs of 10 million OFWs on the other? Surely there is ‘dignity of labor,’ but when a tenth of Filipinos have to seek employment outside the country doing low-skilled jobs, that is reflective of a failed economy, if not a failed nation? Yet our monetary authorities, among others, are boasting of PHL as a model economy? Do we have our version of the Turkish journalist who would call it like it is? But we would proudly pronounce the primacy of our freedom no matter how hellish the nation is while turning a blind eye on what is at its core – geared to reinforce and perpetuate a hierarchical system and structure that has undermined Philippine democracy?

As my wife would explain it, everyone we know believes the Philippines has a booming economy. We were on our periodic holiday cruise that, unfortunately, would remind us of the folly of our economic fundamentals that the financial services sector has called strong: 60% of the ship’s crews are Pinoys. After dinner one night the two other couples (they were Brits) in our table almost in unison asked Robert, our Filipino head waiter: How much break from work do you get; are you here again at breakfast tomorrow? Do you get to see these places that we go to?

I was chatting with the tour guide (while looking over a volcanic crater in the town of Akureyri in Iceland) who asked where we boarded the ship; it was in Hamburg and I added that people uniformly said that we were fortunate to have great weather. And the tour guide was quick. Believe me; they have better weather in Hamburg. In Iceland we take pride in our ability to deal with our harsh environment. And my wife would whisper to me: do you know that there is a fairly large Filipino community here? And collectively these OFWs drive the Philippine economy.

Robert, how much break from work do you get? If only those Brits have seen the documentary (about the lives of OFWs) that the then Archbishop Tagle put together . . . 

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