MANILA -- Filipino journalists remain under threat despite President Ferdinand Marcos' Jr. being "amiable" with the press, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) reported Wednesday, citing the attacks against media workers in the past 10 months.
In a forum commemorating the World Press Freedom day, CMFR along with National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it recorded 75 attacks and threats against media workers from June 30 2022 to April 30 2023.
"There has been, at this point, no real, visible action to prevent these kinds of attacks that made [former President Rodrigo] Duterte's regime as dark as it could ever be for the media and democracy," CMFR executive director Melinda Quintos De Jesus said.
Two journalists, Rey Blanco and Percy Lapid, were killed since Marcos took office last year, CMFR noted.
Meanwhile, 31 of the 40 cases of "intimidation" were classified as "red tagging" or the linking of an individual to the communist insurgency.
"With red tagging as the category with the highest number suggests that Marcos may not have yet departed from Duterte's custom of deploying law enforcement agent [to attack media workers]," De Jesus said.
The CMFR and NUJP report noted 10 cases of libel and cyber libel cases, involving 2 arrests and 1 conviction.
"In many democracies, libel is no longer criminal and can no longer throw a journalist into jail," she said.
PRESS UNDER MARCOS
However, De Jesus conceded that there was an "improvement" on how the government deals with journalists since Marcos took office.
"The improvement...it shows that attacking journalists and the media and insulting them is no longer government's number one priority," she said.
De Jesus, however, remains cautious despite noting Marcos' promise to "positively improve" the country's ranking at the global press freedom index.
"Pres. Marcos seemed to have turned the page on his predecessor's record. But actions speak louder than words," she said.
For NUJP chair Jonathan de Santos, the perception of "improvement" only stemmed from the previous administration setting the bar "very low, it was in fact almost on the floor."
"[It's] tempting to consider that maybe the situation for media workers has improved... partly because the President has been saying the right things," he said.
De Santos reiterated that doing journalism in the Philippines remains dangerous and urged media workers to come together to fight for the country's "fragile" freedom.
"Under siege pa rin ang media. We're still under threat and the struggle continues," De Santos said.
Marcos earlier expressed his administration’s commitment to “ensuring transparency and good governance, freedom of expression and of the press, and the protection of media practitioners and their rights in the practice of their profession,” during the April 27 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).
In his speech at the event, Marcos noted the country’s ranking at the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, 147th, adding his willingness to “improve that present condition.”
“As a testament to our oneness with the international community, we shall work hard, hand in hand with you to… climb our way up in those rankings,” Marcos said.
On May 3, the 2023 list from Reporters Without Borders saw the Philippines climbing to the 132nd place in terms of press freedom.