On freedom of information

Freedom.

Information.

What is freedom to Filipinos?

What is information to Filipinos?

Unless we are clear about what these two are to us the Bill even if it’s passed into Law won’t make a difference in our lives.

Compared to its East Asian neighbors, Philippines has a relatively unrestricted media but unlike its neighbors media has had insignificant contribution to shaping the minds of Filipino viewers toward national goals of for example peace and education. The masses, largely functionally illiterate, and the youth are “educated” first on how to draw a gun unblinkingly and how to spat out the most vile of utterances against another, to cite a couple of lessons imparted through teleseryes. Should it surprise us then if gun fights spill out of the television screen into the streets? How has media utilized information here? Or perhaps the question ought to be is media open to impart information to the public as to the extent of its contribution to say violent behavior in young people?

Daily, national and local papers and radio stations report on issues hounding communities and society; 24/7, social media churn out networked information about a wide range of legitimate concerns. But it appears there are no receivers at the other end. There is for example the recent news about taxpayers’ money used as gifts – but in response to this do we hear taxpayers in organized groups – civil society groups and organizations – making an inquiry into it? In the face of news about crime in neighborhoods, do we hear civil society groups organized around gun control coming forward to help resolve the concern?

What is information?

Where is freedom as a result of information?

What do the people – civil society – want freedom of information for?

The right to information, in practice here is, to my knowledge, relatively unrestricted. What we lack is the responsibility to act on information acquired. The holding and acquisition of information especially when it should be used for the good of society comes with the responsibility to act. Therein lies in part the meaning of freedom as it relates to freedom of information – the freedom to not exercise your right to information when you know you won’t do anything to improve society with the information you’ve gained.

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