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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines became a less dangerous country for journalists in 2015 after improving its ranking for press freedom, Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) revealed.
The index ranks countries based on the following criteria:
- Pluralism or options presented to the media
- Media independence or the degree to which media are able to function independently of authorities
- Environment and self-censorship
- Legislative framework or the quality of legislative framework and its effectiveness
While the report did not specifically indicate the reasons for the country’s improvement in the index, the RSF said it clearly established that at least 3 Filipino journalists were killed this year because of his or her profession.
On August 18, Gregorio “Loloy” Ybañez, Kabuhayan News Services publisher and Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club president, was shot by unidentified killers on his way home.
A day later, radio reporter for dzMS Teodoro “Tio Dodoy” Escanilla suffered a similar fate in his house in Barcelona, Sorsogon. Escanilla was the Anakpawis provincial chairman and spokesman of human rights group Karapatan in Sorsogon.
On August 27, radio commentator for dxOC Cosme Diez Maestrada was gunned down in front of a shopping center in Ozamis City, Misamis Occidental.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said the Philippines will keep its name as “killing fields of journalists” unless authorities put perpetrators behind bars. (READ: Change PH image as ‘killing fields of journalists’ – senators)
The 2015 World Press Freedom Index showed that 67 journalists were killed in the line of duty this year, with another 43 deaths resulting from unclear circumstances. Twenty-seven non-professional citizen journalists and 7 other media workers were also killed.
According to the RSF, the high toll is “largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists” and demonstrates the failure of initiatives to protect media personnel, calling for the United Nations to take action.
The RSF report also showed the growing role of “non-state groups” – often jihadists like the Islamic State – in media-related violence. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com