President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced on June 19, 2023, that he would launch a media and information education campaign to combat disinformation. Philippine fact-checking platform Tsek.ph recorded that Marcos benefited from the rapid spread of misinformation, especially before and during his presidential campaign in 2022. Opposition politician Leni Robredo, on the other hand, was adversely affected by most of the disinformation attacks.
In his speech at the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) hosted by the Philippines, Marcos reiterated that “fake news should have no place in modern societies.” Back in 2019, Rappler reported how the Marcos family targeted social media to whitewash their political image. During the dictatorship of Marcos Sr. in the 1970s, serious human rights violations took place, according to Amnesty International documentation.
Despite the change of government, journalists continue to be threatened under the administration of President Marcos Jr. This is confirmed by a report of the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism, which has assessed the appalling state of press freedom in the Philippines. The report cites 75 cases of press freedom violations between June 2022 and April 2023.
According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report (DNR) of June 14, 2023, distrust among the majority of the Filipino population is overwhelmingly high. The DNR highlights, among other things, in it the steadily declining interest in news, an avoidant behaviour towards news, and a high level of caution when talking about politics online or offline. The annual report also made a connection between low public trust in the media and threats to journalists and media houses.
Following the recent murder of radio journalist Cresenciano Bunduquin in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, the alleged suspects, Isabelo Lopez Bautista and his wife, have turned themselves in to the National Bureau of Investigation.
Investigative media platform VERA Files received a death threat through its Facebook messenger on June 24, 2023. According to editor-in-chief Ellen Tordesillas, the death threat was followed by photos of men with guns. The threat presumably came in the context of a previously published VERA Files fact check on Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s claim that Rodrigo Duterte only announced to kill police officers involved in the drug trade out of frustration. VERA Files provided the counter-evidence that invalidated the assumption. The VERA Files experience is further proof that the repression of journalists and the free press in the Philippines has not improved significantly.
Photo © Raffy Lerma