On World Press Freedom Day, rights groups urge public to support journalists
MANILA, Philippines – To mark World Press Freedom Day on Thursday, May 3, various rights groups highlighted the growing threats to press freedom as democratic institutions worldwide also come under attack.
In a joint declaration, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression David Kaye and rights experts emphasized the essential role of independent media in strengthening democracies.
“Attacks on journalists are deplorable and State authorities must do more to prevent them. These attacks stem in part from increasingly irresponsible framing of journalists as ‘enemies’ by political and business leaders, but are also aimed at deterring investigative reporting in the public interest," Kaye said.
"All those committed to independent and diverse media must join together now to stop such attacks,” he added. (READ: [OPINION] What does it even mean to be free?)
This is especially true in the Philippines where, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Filipino journalists observed the global event while under government attack.
“Filipino journalists, true to the tradition of political muckraking, corruption exposés, and wartime reporting, have often put their lives on the line, serving the Philippine people and democratic values in the process,” HRW Asia Division’s Carlos Conde said in a statement. (READ: In fighting disinformation and trolls, silence 'cannot be an option')
"It’s important that their efforts are supported – including by the Philippine Congress," Conde added.
Filipino journalists under attack
This year's celebration of the global event comes amid continuing attacks against the Philippine press. The latest is the planned new regulations of the House of Representatives on media covering the beat. The proposal aims to allow Congress to ban reporters who “besmirch” the reputation of lawmakers.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has also made repeated hostile statements against journalists to the point of justifying death threats against them.
Among the main targets of the government’s attack against press has been the news website Rappler, which HRW described as “highly critical of the administration,” and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. (READ: Media watchdogs slam Malacañang ban on Rappler reporter)
The government not only banned Rappler reporters from covering all presidential engagements in and out of the country, it has also initiated tax evasion and libel cases against the news organization.
On January 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler's registration over ownership questions. The order is not yet final and executory, and is under appeal. (READ: Everything you need to know about Rappler's Malacañang coverage ban)
Citing the Philippine media's experience and similar attacks against the press worldwide, Kaye said that "those acting on behalf of the State threaten journalism on political, legal and technological fronts."
"They abuse public resources by placing advertisements only with friendly outlets, assert financial or other forms of control, and promote or permit media concentrations," he added.
The increasing attacks against the Philippine media have not gone unnoticed. The country's ranking in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, has fallen 6 notches to 133 from 127 in 2017, out of 180 countries. – Rappler.com
For more stories on issues surrounding this year's celebration of World Press Freedom Day, visit: rappler.com/pressfreedom2018