Parrhesia

Bearers of Democracy: Media and Liberty in the Age of Fascism

This was written in response to a Facebook post by a certain Jonathan P. Nacua, stating, “PRESS / MEDIA is the PROXIMATE CAUSE of many predicaments we’re facing as a nation.” Mr. Jonathan P. Nacua is an educator, principal, and immersed in the campus journalism circuit in the country.

I have read Mr. Nacua’s post several times to gain a better understanding of the message. I am well aware of the complexities of nation-building and its relation to the state. One of the modern state’s key characteristics is its assemblage of repressive apparatuses that exist with no other purpose but to maintain the power of the state. Statecraft and nation-building are two different things. However, people often confuse the government with the people and the bayan.

Nacua posted on his personal Facebook account that “PRESS / MEDIA is the PROXIMATE CAUSE of many predicaments we’re facing as a nation.” (Screenshot: Facebook)

The government becomes a sacred cow of sorts, and some portions of the population attribute all success to the state while connecting failures and upheavals to the people. People ‘claim’ the state as theirs, mistakenly believing that the state represents the absolute will of the people.

—Marius Carlos, Jr.

Consequently, messages like the one above are shared when people cannot extricate themselves from the false binary of government vis-à-vis nationhood. The government becomes a sacred cow of sorts, and some portions of the population attribute all success to the state while connecting failures and upheavals to the people. People ‘claim’ the state as theirs, mistakenly believing that the state represents the absolute will of the people. But the reality is far from this absurd conceptualization of what the state is. And to state that the press is the proximate cause of the problems that plague our country is mangling of the purpose and role of media in a time of hyper-fascism, as the gyres of transnational capitalism widen the gap between the most moneyed nations and the starving Global South.

The media necessarily includes alternative media and citizen journalists—and the minuscule rights and freedoms granted by antiquated constitutions and criminal laws globally are all journalists and alternative media practitioners have as protection against state repression. Mr. Nacua, you have it all wrong. The media and the press do not cause problems. The state hunts down journalists and kills them, with no remorse and no second thought about the consequences of the loss of media practitioners in a country that barely recognizes its histories. You also mistake the private sector’s natural traitorousness against all classes and especially the people’s rights and interests, as an undeniable reflection of media practice in the country. With the same logic, we can also say that school presses and independent publications contribute to whatever ‘problems’ there may be. As far as I know, we are all struggling with a murderous government, unemployment, underemployment, poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an inadequate healthcare infrastructure that cracked the first chance it had. How the media contributed to these problems, I cannot fathom. The statement harms not the media conglomerates but the individual practitioners risking their lives every day in the face of COVID and government pressure to ‘report fairly,’ which is simply an insidious and despicable order to help perfume the government’s façade. How anyone can fail to see this is beyond me.

The modern state’s long history of violence and repression will never be erased. Not by propaganda machinery. And certainly not by individuals who blame the media for unspecified problems. The path of the current government is strewn with the blood of those murdered by different regimes globally. Those who write against government abuses are the true bearers of democracy. They are not sources of these problems. They serve as the organic and continuously evolving reflections of the conscience of the people, however imperfect they may be. They write with the risk of losing their livelihoods and their lives as well. If we deem these as insufficient risk for something that provides so little in return, then perhaps we are now absolutely lost in our understanding of the value of democratic principles and the various ways that the people genuinely express themselves to protect the nation. The ‘will of the people’ has been compartmentalized in several ways—first through questionable local and national elections, and second through the farcical recreation of the masses’ consciousness through the propagation of the idea of the public. The existence of this concept allows for the further mangling of what people ‘think’ others are thinking. Without a critical lens and an open field where actors/agents can practice the freedom of the press, we fall into a dangerous minefield where only the state’s mouthpieces and machinery are the sources of truth. Have we become so enamored with that demagogue and his allies that we now hand over the press to him, too?

A lot of journalists brave insidious situations in the country to sustain the flow of information. (Photo: Rolex dela Peña/European Pressphoto Agency)

We cannot, in good conscience, ignore human rights abuses such as this against the ones who bear the daily burden of speaking truth to power. Countless journalists brave insidious micro-practices in the country to sustain the flow of information necessary for democracy to continue.

—Marius Carlos, Jr.

Whenever we speak about the free press and even just the idea of freedom of expression, let us also bear the burden of individuals like Houshang Asadi, a journalist, writer, and translator, who was captured twice —first in 1974 during the Shah’s regime and second, shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Asadi was tortured severely for two years and was forced to make a false confession that he was a spy for the Russian and British governments. Asadi was eventually sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. After six years, he was freed, and he escaped Iran. His exile took him to Paris, where he has stayed ever since with his wife. (Asadi i) Asadi’s eventual flight prevented the Iranian government from once again abducting and torturing him for his writing.

We cannot, in good conscience, ignore human rights abuses such as this against the ones who bear the daily burden of speaking truth to power. Countless journalists brave insidious micro-practices in the country to sustain the flow of information necessary for democracy to continue. We cannot function as a nation without critical eyes on the ground. And we also cannot continue to repair and uphold our democracy if we keep mistaking the state as the nation.

Works Cited:

Asadi, Houshang. Letters To My Torturer. Oneworld, 2012, p. i.


Marius Carlos, Jr. is a storyteller, essayist, and journalist. He is the current editor-in-chief of Revolt Magazine. He is also the English editor of Rebo Press Book Publishing. He is an independent researcher focused on transnational capitalism, neocolonialism, empire, and pop culture. You can reach him via social media at Minds and MeWe.

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