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When the truth will set us free

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 humankind, 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, 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 organisation 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 an 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 the president, Vladimir Putin, was shocked. There was widespread public outrage and social media was alive with 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, dropped the charges, freed him from jail and suspended the senior police official 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 hospitalised 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. On June 9, Philippine journalist, Margarita Valle, a 61-year-old mother of four children, a columnist of the Davao Today newspaper, was arrested at the airport in Cagayan de Oro. She was detained for nine hours in Pagadian until help came and the police then admitted that they had made a mistake. Bishop Ronald Lunas of Pagdian, gave her protection.
 
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines called on the government to solve the murder of 56-year-old journalist, Adam Moraleta, an executive in a government television station who was shot on June 6 near his house in Holy Spirit Village, Quezon City. Moraleta is the third member of the Press Club to be killed in the past five years.
 
The record shows that as many as 185 journalists have been assassinated in the Philippines since 1986. Twelve 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 who 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 worldwide phenomena and a grave danger to true democracy.  Russian interference in the United States elections has been clearly established. The involvement of Cambridge Analytical, a company that allegedly used stolen e-mail addresses to sow confusion and send political propaganda over the Internet are tactics that are still going on today.
 
Media practitioners that are dedicated to publishing the truth are the defenders of democratic, moral and spiritual values. The truth will mobilise 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. 
 
 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org