MANILA — Local media remain "extremely vibrant" under the Duterte administration, Malacañang said on Wednesday, after the Philippines further dropped in a global index on press freedom.
The Philippine slipped 9 places to 147th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index by watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Despite this movement, Palace spokesman Andanar said the group "acknowledged that the Philippine media are extremely vibrant."
“In addition, it should be pointed out that the Philippines is not included in its category of countries in the so-called ‘red list’ which RSF says indicates very bad press freedom situations,” Andanar said in a public briefing.
Andanar, a former television news anchor and radio commentator, added that the Philippines was not in the RSF's World Ten Worst Countries for Press Freedom.
However, the RSF's summary reads: "The Philippine media are extremely vibrant despite the government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment, since 2016, of journalists and media outlets that are too critical."
The watchdog noted that the country's erstwhile largest broadcaster ABS-CBN was stripped of its franchise in 2020 leading to the closure of dozens of radio stations and TV channels.
"The 1987 Constitution guarantees press freedom but, in practice, Philippine law does not protect the ability of journalists to work freely. Defamation is still criminalized and the journalist Maria Ressa faces the possibility of several decades in prison as a result of legal actions brought by several government agencies," said Reporters Without Borders.
It added that several news websites that "do not toe the line... such as the Altermidya network sites, are being subjected to cyberattacks by pro-Duterte trolls that could lead to their suspension."
RSF said Filipino journalists have also seen the return of "red-tagging" that brands them as subversive elements and opens them to arbitrary arrest.
A task force on media security "proved unable to stem the vicious cycle of violence against journalists," the watchdog added.
"At the regional level, many journalists are the targets of threats and lawsuits, while women journalists are subjected to specific gender-based threats – threats of rape, cyber-harassment, disclosure of personal details and so on," it said.
The Philippines was the 7th most dangerous country for journalists worldwide due to several unsolved murders, based on the Global Impunity Index 2021.
Duterte last year described press freedom as "a public good" and "an indispensable requirement with vibrant democracy."
— With report from Job Manahan and Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News
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