EU, UN officers raise concern on 'harassment' of Philippine journalists

Adrian Ayalin and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2022 02:56 PM

Members of various media organizations gather at the Boy Scout Circle on Timog Avenue in Quezon City on Oct. 4, 2022 for an indignation rally on the killing of radio broadcaster Percy Mabasa. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/File 
Members of various media organizations gather at the Boy Scout Circle on Timog Avenue in Quezon City on Oct. 4, 2022 for an indignation rally on the killing of radio broadcaster Percy Mabasa. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/File 

MANILA — European Union and United Nations officers on Friday raised concerns about the continued "harassment" of Philippine journalists, following the slay of a radio personality. 

EU Political Officer Frederic Grillet said there was an urgent need for the full implementation of the Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists because of continued threats against media professionals. 

Speaking before an audience of journalists at the “Alerto Tayo! Safety for Media and Human Rights Workers” forum organized by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, Grillet encouraged various stakeholders to address issues concerning Filipino media workers.

The Philippine Plan of Action is anchored on the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, developed through a multi-stakeholder process under an EU-funded project to safeguard press freedom in the Philippines.

“The biggest TV network in the country remains shut. Journalists are still subjected to harassment, online and offline, some are in jail for charges or facing jail time that many believe are politically motivated,” Grillet said.

A House of Representatives committee in 2020 shut down broadcast operations of ABS-CBN Corp., forcing it to let go thousands of employees, including about 400 from the news division.

Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize winner and veteran journalist Maria Ressa battles to stay out of prison following a cyberlibel conviction in 2020. 

The previous Duterte administration has denied hounding media and said any problems organizations face are legal, not political. It said it believed in free speech.

Grillet noted that the protection of journalists worldwide is a major concern for the EU.

“Without the intervention of media, social activism, and critical thinking, democracy falls,” Grillet.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Programme Specialist Ana Lomtadze meanwhile noted that the growth of digital technology has led to attacks against journalists online through surveillance, stalking, hacking, disinformation, and hate speech.

“Every attack distorts reality by creating a climate of fear and self-censorship,” Lomtadze said.

The Philippine slipped 9 places to 147th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index by watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). 

The Committee to Protect Journalists meanwhile ranks the Philippines seventh in the world in its impunity index, which tracks deaths of media members whose killers go free.

Earlier this month, radio personality Percival Mabasa, more known as Percy Lapid, was gunned down on his way to work. Police said the killing was likely related to his profession. 

A total of 155 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Philippines since 1992, according to international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists.

This is more than 7 percent of the 2,175 media workers killings worldwide during the period, making the Philippines among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists in recent years.

 — With a report from Agence France-Presse 

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