MANILA - Almost half or 45 percent of Filipinos said reporting anything critical against President Rodrigo Duterte's administration could be "dangerous," even if it is the truth, new survey results from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, 19 percent of the respondents disagreed about the notion, which read: “It is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth."
This gives the responses a net agreement score of +26, considered by SWS as "moderate."
A total of 42 percent of adult Filipinos, on the other hand, thought that they could say anything against the President "openly and without fear" while 22 percent disagreed.
Twenty-eight percent, on the other hand, were undecided, giving it a net agreement score of "moderate +20," according to the pollster.
"However, the net agreement scores in May 2021, June 2021, and September 2021 are lower than in previous surveys when the test statement was 'I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration,' except for the record-low neutral +3 in July 1985, during the time of Marcos," SWS explained.
The non-commissioned survey was conducted from Sept. 12 to 16, using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults, according to the survey.
HIGHEST IN VISAYAS
The respondents who agreed that they could not publish critical news stories against the administration is highest in Visayas (+33), which the pollster considered as "strong."
It was followed by Balance Luzon (+21), and Mindanao (+12) and have stayed "moderate" in these areas.
Those who had an affirmative stance in the statement stood "moderate" in Metro Manila (+17).
But the respondents who said they could say anything they want against Duterte "openly and without fear" is highest in the capital region (+30), followed by Balance Luzon (+19) and the Visayas (+19).
Those who agreed with the sentiment was lowest in Mindanao at +15.
Under the Duterte administration, the media have come under threat, with organizations shut down and some journalists barred from coverage.
Veteran journalist Maria Ressa faced a libel conviction in 2020. Her news site Rappler had its license suspended and she has faced legal action for various reasons, motivated by her scrutiny of Duterte, activists say.
Ressa last week shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for what the committee called braving the wrath of leaders to expose corruption and misrule, in an endorsement of free speech.
In July, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said fear to publish stories critical of the government swept newsrooms in the Philippines a year after ABS-CBN’s broadcast shutdown.
This, the organization said, is a real and clear manifestation of the “chilling effect” that media experts had warned of ahead of the shutdown.
The Philippines is the 7th most dangerous country for journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last year.
Duterte, however, has said that press freedom "is vital in a nation’s vibrant democracy," despite accusations it has been under fire during his administration.
Duterte made the comment to mark the fifth anniversary on Wednesday of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a body he created to end violence against journalists.
"The task force plays a crucial role in safeguarding press freedom that is vital in a nation’s vibrant democracy," Duterte said in a taped message. "It also helps ensure that the rights and welfare of the press are well protected and upheld."