Shortly after the 30th International Press Freedom Day, the Philippine Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) reported 75 cases of abuse against media workers since the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In the international ranking on “press freedom” by Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines slipped to the 132nd place with an improvement of 15 places. Restrictions on the press have become looser in the country under the new administration but remain consistent.
From June 30, 2022, to April 30, 2023, the CMFR counted 40 cases of intimidation, harassment, libel and cyberlibel of journalists, as well as exclusion from reporting and censorship, threats of online threatening messages, cyber attacks and even physical violence. In addition, the CMFR said that 31 of the 40 cases included intimidation through so-called “red-tagging,” falsely accusing journalists of supporting the communist insurgency.
Diplomats from different nations expressed their gratitude for the work of independent and brave journalists and stressed the importance of their work during the International Press Freedom Day in Manila. EU Ambassador Luc Veron said: “We cannot be free if journalists aren’t free.”
A statement by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported 60 violations of press freedom under the Marcos administration, such as the murder of well-known radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa on October 3, 2022 and broadcaster Renato “Rey” Blanco on September 18, 2022.
Various Philippine media houses and individual media practitioners released a statement on International Press Freedom Day to express their ethical commitment to human rights. Among them, they spoke out in favor of upholding human rights, evidence-based journalism and justice from a victim-centered perspective, and underscored their role in holding governments and state actors accountable.
Marcos Jr. also assured the protection of press freedom under his administration and offered to work “hand-in-hand” with the media to provide government transparency as well as civil liberties. What is known, however, is that Marcos used a massive disinformation strategy for his 2022 presidential campaign. In particular, his opponent, former vice-president Leni Reobredo, was the central target of attacks; Marcos denied these accusations.
Photo © Raffy Lerma