Duterte OKs law declaring Aug. 30 as 'National Press Freedom Day'

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 27 2022 04:12 PM

Press freedom advocates join ABS-CBN employees during a candle lighting event led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a year after ABS-CBN went off-air, outside its broadcasting center in Quezon City on May 5, 2021. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Press freedom advocates join ABS-CBN employees during a candle lighting event led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a year after ABS-CBN went off-air, outside its broadcasting center in Quezon City on May 5, 2021. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a measure declaring every Aug. 30 as "National Press Freedom Day," Malacañang announced on Wednesday. 

This is a working holiday in honor of Marcelo H. Del Pilar, considered as the "father of Philippine journalism," who was born on Aug. 30, 1850, acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar told reporters. 

"Congratulations sa mga kaibigan ko sa National Press Club, na sila po'y nanguna para ito ay maipasa at mapirmahan ng ating Pangulo," Andanar said.

Republic Act No. 11699, signed on April 13, urges the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and media entities to lead educational institutions in raising awareness on the importance of the press for nation building. 

The National Press Freedom Day also aims to point out the need to "eliminate all forms of violence against the press," the law read.

Different press freedom issues hounded Duterte's administration in the past 6 years. 

The President's allies in the lower house killed ABS-CBN's bid for a fresh franchise in 2020, causing the retrenchment of thousands of workers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and limiting the public's sources of information.

The denial of a broadcast franchise was made despite various government agencies clearing the country's then-biggest network of tax liabilities and other alleged irregularities.

Human Rights Watch had said the closure “reeks of a political vendetta.”

News outfit Rappler and its chief Maria Ressa, which published reports on some of Duterte's policies, including the deadly war on drugs, also faced a number of charges over the past few years.

In June 2020, a Manila court found Ressa guilty of cyber libel over an article tagging a businessman to alleged illegal activities.

The case has been controversial from the onset because the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which punishes cyber libel, was not enacted until September 2012 or four months after the May 2012 article was published.

Aside from the cyberlibel case, Rappler and Ressa are facing charges of tax fraud, violating the Securities Regulation Code and the Anti-Dummy Law, among others.

The Philippines remains as the 7th most dangerous country for journalists worldwide, as several murders involving media workers remained unsolved, the Global Impunity Index 2021 released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) last October showed.

Press freedom "is vital in a nation’s vibrant democracy," Duterte said in October last year.

During last year's World Press Freedom Day in May, he said his administration would protect the media as he described press freedom as "a public good" and "an indispensable requirement with vibrant democracy." 

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