The Importance of the Fourth Estate

Wikipedia defines the fourth estate as "a segment of society that wields an indirect but significant influence on society even though it is not a formally recognized part of the political system. The most commonly recognized part of the fourth estate is the news media, or press". The fourth estate is often deemed important in a democracy because of the requirement of an informed citizenry. The news media or press therefore serves a source of information. For example, when a new tax bill is passed, it is crucial that the public is made knowledgeable of the new law and its consequences. Correct and complete information is always necessary to arrive at the right conclusions. Reporting that prices of commodities are rising and attributing the rise solely to a new tax without considering that the prices of these commodities are also increasing in the global market is an example of incomplete information. There is indeed a huge difference between informing and misleading. Of course, there is likewise a distinction between being selective and being comprehensive. There is truly a huge responsibility that rests on the shoulders of a fourth estate. For this reason, it must remain free for it is only with freedom can responsibility exist.

Information that is vital often involves conflicting interests. Otherwise, conclusions are not really that consequential. The need to know frequently coincides with what is right and what is wrong. And it is really in these cases that information matters most. Local newspapers are very useful for these usually cover situations or issues that are very relevant to a community. This morning, in the midst of two big stories in the Philippines, the resignation of the chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education and the news media Rappler being ordered to shut down by the Securities and Exchange Commission, I happened to read a commentary on MindaNews, a news cooperative from the Southern Philippines. The commentary, Why Tagakolu children can barely read or write despite attending school, was written by Joey Evangelista. It spoke about the current struggles of children from the Tagakolu tribes of Davao. 

Above copied from MindaNews

The commentary, as seen from above, started with the fact that because of the new tax law, teachers in public schools would be seeing a larger take home pay. What is excruciating is what follows. Here are additional excerpts:

Above copied from MindaNews

In these remote places, children are apparently condemned to a life of illiteracy. Teachers even believe that the brains of Tagakolu children are simply not built for learning. This is truly a disgrace.

When one sees news like this that describes what has been going on for so many years now, one can only ask, "Where is the fourth estate?"