Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network
The Philippines is among the seven countries in Southeast Asia that were dubbed as the worst places for journalists due to threat of impunity, safety, and censorship.
This was according to the report of the Southeast Asia Media Freedom that was published by the International Federation of Journalists.
According to the report, the media freedom in the country is “worsening to seriously declining.” Some of the threats that Southeast Asia Media Freedom cited were cyber-attacks, poor wages and working conditions, censorship, and government attacks on the workplace.
“There are no signs of any government willingness to stop the targeting of journalist and media organisations who believe this official apathy, or even open hostility,” the report said.
“[It] has fueled a culture of impunity which has emboldened those seeking to silence the press,” it added.
Citing the data of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the report noted that the number of journalists killed in the country is now at 185 since the People Power Revolution in 1986.
The impunity scale of the Philippines scored at 7.5 out of 10, with 10 being the highest. The justice system in the country, meanwhile, got 7.5 out of 10 as well, the report said.
Under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte that started mid-2016, the report noted that 12 journalists have already been killed. Eleven of which happened prior to Duterte’s second year in office.
The report said that the impunity influence stemmed from political leadership. It also tagged the Philippines as “the deadliest peacetime country for journalists.”
Duterte has been always vocal on his treats against media outfits in the country that criticized the administration, particularly ABS-CBN, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Rappler.
Despite threats thrown at Rappler, its Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa was one of the journalists named by Time magazine as Person of the Year.
Harassment against journalists
Aside from the threat from the administration, 85 cases of assault were also made against the media from June 2016 up to May 2018.
Threats, according to the report, range from murders, death threats, online harassment, police surveillance, and the revocation of operating licenses.
“Women journalists appear to be easier targets for online attacks. Several reported being bombarded with threats on social media to rape them or their children, or wipe out their families,” report said.
“News websites and media organisations critical of Duterte’s leadership have also been hacked and taken down, including the NUJP, which has faced multiple attacks,” it added.
With the said threats on the lives of the journalists, the report stated that media censorship happens within the newsroom.
It added that some journalists have reported to unions and colleagues that they have been asked to tone down their stories for being “too critical” against the administration.
This, the report said, might “invite retaliation from the government and its supporters.”
Despite the state of the media of the Philippines, the report noted that this was not the first time the country was put in the same situation.
It could be recalled that during the dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Marcos also ordered to shut down the media during his term.
The press, being “fiercely independent,” managed to deliver news to the public by being “mosquito press.”
The report then said that the “situation seems bleak for Filipino journalists,” but it is a high-time for reporters to unite to protect and advance their rights.
“Today’s journalists, besieged though they may be, remain just as jealously protective of their rights and freedoms. They also have the added benefit of strong professional organisations and support systems, as well as extensive international networks they can count on when push comes to shove,” it said.
“The greater challenge may be the threats from within the industry that endanger their economic, professional, and psychological welfare. 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,” it added. /je