By Uriel Quilinguing
IT was providential the celebration of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club’s 68th foundation anniversary was moved to the 15th instead of the 11th of November though a week earlier, the board had other reasons for resetting the day.
Had it been held exactly on the day the club was founded, some members may cherish the club’s almost seven decades of existence yet perplexed as to the primordial reason why they are in the fourth estate.
About a dozen Cagayan de Oro-based media practitioners, most of them club members, were among the 47 who attended a briefing on how their newsrooms and their respective outfits have been wittingly or unwittingly being infiltrated by ideologues masquerading as true-blooded journalists but are actually propagandists of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Incidentally, the activity venue was at the New Dawn Hotel just across the street where Philtown Hotel is situated, where the club has been a regular customer during special events.
The eight-hour orientation which the Philippine Information Agency organized was a subtle invitation for fourth estate members to join and be active participants in the first estate’s propaganda campaign to end local communist conflicts. Both the speakers—or should they be described as recruiters—from the 403rd of the Philippine Army’s Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica) admitted the Philippine government has been outwitted and outmaneuvered by the seemingly well-oiled propaganda machinery of the CNN or the CPP-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army, hence the need to marshal the capabilities of the fourth estate or the mainstream media, other than the government media.
To set this proper perspective, media practitioners who are government agencies, local governments and those under the payroll of politicians, should be categorized as government media and are under the first estate or second estate since they are either attached to the executive or legislative branches of government. The third estate, which is the judicial branch of government, does not employ individuals to glamorize its image unlike those in the first and second estates of government.
In effect, the PIA-AFP-Nica triumvirate want private media practitioners to be part of the government’s counter-propaganda against what they describe as communist terrorist group. They want to utilize the fourth estate for their ends by convincing its members to be part of the government propaganda—that of “giving one part of an argument and spread this intending to influence people’s opinion,” as Cambridge dictionary defined what propaganda is. It is “information, especially or a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”
So they want members of the fourth estate to get engaged in “spreading of ideas, information, or rumor to help or injure an institution, a cause, or a person,” which is propaganda as defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Clearly, these definitions do not fit into the mindset of dye-in-the-wool journalists who truly belong to the fourth estate. They vet on every idea, opinions, issues, and facts at hand for a very simple frame of mind that facts don’t necessarily constitute the truth.
They know pretty well that truth requires more than facts alone; it requires intellect, the skill to connect the dots, the ability to decipher patterns and to simplify complex information and present them into cause and effect statements. It is in this situation where one must be able to sift the grains from the chaff, discerning facts from fiction, and then reporting these from a neutral and unbiased perspective. This, of course, is a constant challenge for every professional journalist to record, investigate, interpret and publish the facts truthfully. Every single day, one undergoes a deep and anxious consideration on the correctness of a course of action.
(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club who, for more than three decades, had been editor in chief of Cagayan de Oro-based newspapers, including this paper. For reactions, email them to email@example.com.)