TODAY we think of Scheherazade of “The Arabian Nights” who left her stories hanging for the next day as a matter of survival. The king’s code was to kill the wife the day after the wedding if only to spare himself yet again the possibility of getting hurt should the wife cheat on him. Scheherazade had the better wisdom of not concluding her tales so the king, who she knew was eavesdropping, would defer her execution. Her trick gave her a thousand and one nights of life and storytelling.
In these challenging times, our community’s storytellers bear that difficult task of surviving. Assault of varying nature hound the press—fake news, harassment cases, “alternative” media, shifting platforms, killing of journalists, etc. You can imagine a surreal warrior parrying a thousand arrows as he soldiers on with his mission.
This year, giant television network ABS-CBN confronts its biggest challenge since Marcos’s Martial Law as its legislative franchise expires on March 30. The House will have to decide on its fate, but President Rodrigo Duterte has persistently pushed for its closure, the latest was a suggestion for the network to rather put itself up for sale. The President begrudged the network for its alleged refusal to broadcast his presidential campaign advertisements in 2016.
It was also in 2019 when government released “The Matrix,” a diagram illustrating a network of institutions and individuals who were supposedly conspiring to oust the President. In the “matrix” were a good number of journalists and press groups, including the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. That diagram, no more relevant than a makeshift checkerboard, fizzled in the face of a vigilant press.
Anyone with a sense of history knows that a good number of names in that diagram were that of journalists with excellent track records, enterprising storytellers even way before the idea of a Duterte presidency ever appeared in the sky.
There is palpable attack on the press under this administration, reinforced by minions in social media and soldiers in the grassroots. Government triumph against any media entity is one blow that pushes back free expression and democracy.
We bear this in mind as we embark on yet another year of unflinching journalism.