Students of journalism joined some of the most illustrious names in the profession to witness the University of the Philippines (UP) confer the Gawad Plaridel Award to broadcast journalist Tina Monzon-Palma at the Cine Adarna in UP Diliman on August 23, 2017.
The Gawad Plaridel award is given by UP to outstanding media practitioners who have excelled in their field and have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service. Monzon-Palma was unanimously chosen as its 2017 recipient for her pioneering role as a woman broadcaster, her leadership as a news anchor and director, and her unshakeable integrity during the Martial Law period and its succeeding years. She also served as a mentor to the country’s next crop of exceptional broadcast journalists.
Monzon-Palma’s award ceremony was witnessed by several friends and colleagues, including GMA 7’s Marissa Flores and Jessica Soho, Rappler’s Maria Ressa, veteran journalist Luz Rimban and others. The award was conferred by UP President Danilo Concepcion, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan and UP College of Mass Communication Dean Elena Pernia.
In a lecture she delivered after the awarding ceremonies, the self-described survivor of seven coup attempts drew strong parallels between the dangers of the Martial Law years and today’s sociopolitical ills. “The years when everything you watched, heard and read was a whitewashed version of reality. There were years when people lived in fear of the knock on the door, which ended with people dying and missing to this day.”
“But this generation is living through a parallel of that,” she claimed. “I was talking about the crony press, but you (now) call it ‘fake news’. In many ways, those years are uncannily similar to today, don’t you think?”
While sharing her thoughts about why making such comparisons are apt, Monzon-Palma also shared how the presence of online and social media could exacerbate the problem. “Everything is on steroids,” she said. “You know, in those years, everything was placid. Above the ground. But there was a groundswell underneath. I was thinking how fast this generation’s volcano will explode – everything happens ten times faster.”
In an age, however, when proponents of ‘fake news’ and hate speech are eroding public trust in media, she had this piece of advice to current and future media practitioners: “Stick to good journalism,” she said. “You will never feel afraid if you know what you write about is the truth.”
Furthermore, drawing from more than 40 years of experience, which often saw her clash with officials of multiple national administrations, Monzon-Palma stressed that the media’s national role becomes clear as truth becomes blurred.
“[The media’s] best weapons against lies are being transparent, thorough and provocative,” she said. “When mainstream media descends into unobtrusiveness, it does a disservice to the audience. When media masters the art of camouflage, people will forget. And when media becomes muted, we let the underlying message behind the trolls and the propaganda machine dominate the discourse”.
“Thirty years ago,” she said, during my time, media answered the call. Now it is your turn.” (Andre Encarnacion, UP MPRO)