Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 22) — The Philippines is among the countries in Southeast Asia dubbed as the worst places for journalists, according to the report of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
Media impunity in the Philippines ranked 7.7 points out of 10, the highest among the seven countries in the region in the report entitled “Southeast Asia Media Freedom Report 2018.”
Myanmar followed with 7.5 points, and then Indonesia with 7.4 points.
The report stated the state of media freedom in the Philippines is “worsening to seriously declining.” It added that threats posing to media freedom include cyberattacks, poor wages and working conditions, censorship, and the government’s attack on the workspace.
The report cited that 12 journalists and media personnel have been killed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
It also identified 85 cases of assault against journalists from June 30, 2016 to May 1, 2018. The cases include murders and attempted murders, death threats, online harassment, police surveillance, and the revocation of operating licences.
Malacañang, however, clarified that these killings had nothing to do with their job as journalists.
“From what I gather from those who have been killed, may kinalaman sa personal na pamumuhay nila [it has something to do with their personal life], nothing to do with journalism,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing Friday.
It cited the case of Rappler whose license to operate was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission due to foreign ownership issues. Its CEO Maria Ressa posted bail after an arrest warrant was issued against her due to tax evasion charges.
Critics had pointed out state actions against Rappler are an attack on press freedom, but Malacañang repeatedly denied this.
“You violate a law. You cannot be immune from prosecution and, binibigyan naman siya (Ressa) ng due process at nakalabas nga siya eh [she’s given due process and she’s out],” Panelo explained.
Duterte slammed Rappler, broadcast network ABS-CBN, and broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), amid critical media coverage of his war on drugs which have left more than 5,000 dead. He has also threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise, and file tax evasion cases against the family owning PDI.
The report, however, pointed out that Filipino journalists are resilient, as they faced a similar situation in 1972 when former President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law all over the country.
Marcos shut down the media then, but the report lauded the “mosquito press,” which continued publishing newspapers clandestinely.
“Today’s journalists, besieged though they may be, remain just as jealously protective of their rights and freedoms,” IFJ said.” Now, more than ever, they need to unite and build strong unions and associations to protect and advance their rights, improve their skills and strengthen their ethics.”