Philippines slips 2 places in World Press Freedom Index

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Philippines slips 2 places in World Press Freedom Index
The Philippines, now ranked 136th, is cited as having state troll armies which weaponize disinformation on social media, as well as having some intolerance towards critical journalism

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines ranked two places lower at 136th on the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index for 2020.

The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom given to journalists in a particular locale. 

The report cited the Philippines twice in relation to troll farms and the spread of political intolerance.

In reference to troll farms, the report discussed how a lack of “appropriate regulation in the era of digitalized and globalized communication has created information chaos.”

It mentioned the Philippines as using state troll armies to amplify and weaponize disinformation on social media. 

Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific analysis of the report, the Philippines is also cited as having a show of “national-populism,” which creates intolerance towards critical journalism. Critical journalism is seen as anti-government or not nationalistic.

The Index’s information brief on the Philippines cited the government’s intolerance for critical journalism, particularly the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN, and Rappler and its CEO Maria Ressa.

“The government, for its part, has developed several ways to pressure journalists who dare to be overly critical of the summary methods adopted by ‘Punisher’ Duterte and his ‘war on drugs.’ After targeting the (Philippine Daily) Inquirer, the hot-headed president and his staff waged a grotesque judicial harassment campaign against the news website Rappler and its editor, Maria Ressa. The leading TV network, ABS-CBN, has also been the target of threats and intimidation by government agencies and institutions that support Duterte,” it said.

“The persecution has been accompanied by online harassment campaigns waged by pro-Duterte troll armies, which also launched cyber-attacks on alternative news websites and the site of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, in order to block them. In response to all these attacks, the Philippine independent media have rallied around the call to ‘Hold the line,'” it added.

The Index cited 5 “converging crises affecting the future of journalism” that are are compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

These are:

  • Geopolitical crisis due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes in suppressing information and stifling pluralism and independent journalism
  • Technological crisis due to a lack of democratic guarantees, and competition from propaganda, advertising, and rumors
  • Democratic crisis due to polarization and repressive policies exemplifying hostility towards journalists
  • Crisis of trust due to suspicion or hatred of the media
  • Economic crisis as digital transformation leads to falling sales, layoffs, and lack of funding for quality journalism

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said, “We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future.”

“The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, with the pandemic itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today,” he added.

The Index rankings also saw few major changes from last year, with Nordic countries regarded as the most free. Norway topped the list.

Isolated states Turkmenistan and North Korea rank at the bottom of the list.

Rankings for the World Press Freedom Index can be seen here–

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