When the Truth Will Set us Free
Fr. Shay Cullen
14 June 2019
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 to 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, fascism, 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.
CNN, a trustworthy news organization says this: “In his first 869 days as president, Donald Trump said 10,796 things that were either misleading or outright false, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Do the math and you get this: The President of the United States is saying 12 untrue things a day.”
It’s likely that in his case, by the time he gets to the third he has forgotten the previous two. Politicians 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. Trump is typical.
Politicians with dictatorial tendencies, engaging in corrupt practices, accumulating wealth criminally and violating the rights of the people to stay in power cannot tolerate a open, free probing press. Their first move is to bring the media under government control. Turkey and Russia are examples of this.
Investigative 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 planted illegal 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 alive in condemnation. Three main government media newspapers came out in solidarity with Ivan Golunov and had the same front-page message, “We are Golunov.”
The Russian government was shaken and dropped the charges and freed him from jail and suspended the senior police involved in the frame up. The police were enraged, too at Ivan. Opposition critics of the Russian government officials usually get shot or convicted on false charges. He was beaten up and was hospitalized after being released. Crowds of supporters met him as he came out of detention and demonstrated and they 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 false trumped up charges and in the Philippines, too. Last 9 June, Philippine journalist Margarita Valle, 61, a mother of four children, a columnist of the Davao Today newspaper, was arrested at the airport in Cagayan de Oro. She was held for nine hours in detention in Pagadian until help came and the police then admitted that they had made a mistake. Pagadian Bishop Ronald Lunas gave her protection.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines called on the government to solve the murder of journalist Adam Moraleta, 56, an executive in a government TV station who was shot last June 6, near his house in Holy Spirit Village in Quezon City. Adam Moraleta is the third member of the Press Club to be killed in the previous five years.
The record shows that as many as 185 journalists have been assassinated in the Philippines since 1986. Twelve journalists have been murdered since 2016. The Philippines is among the most dangerous places to be a journalist after Afghanistan and Syria. But most Philippine journalists are true to their professions to report the truth and safeguard the rights of press freedom, come what may. They are mostly resilient, brave and courageous journalists that endure the dangers of false charges, harassment and even death.
The manipulation of the social media by paid trolls spreading false stories, placing misleading headlines and promoting political propaganda is also a world-wide phenomena and a grave danger to true democracy. Russian interference in the US elections has been clearly established. The involvement of Cambridge Analytical, a company that allegedly used stolen email address to sow confusion and send political propaganda over the internet are tactics that are still going on today.
The media practitioners that are 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 and 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.