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Over 100 attacks vs journalists since Duterte assumed office – monitor

MANILA, Philippines – Over 100 cases of attacks against journalists have been recorded since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, a network of journalist organizations announced on World Press Freedom Day, May 3.

In a presentation during a press freedom forum by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication Luis Teodoro said that from June 30, 2016 up to April 30, 2019, they have monitored at least 128 threats and attacks against members of the press.

The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network is composed of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Philippine Press Institute, MindaNews, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. (READ: Foreign-funded? Journalists hit back, say gov't gets funds from China)

The rate of harassment and assaults has so far been unprecedented, according to Teodoro. He noted that during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 9-year term as president, 32 journalists were killed in the Maguindanao massacre. During the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, 31 journalists were killed.

"As far as instance of occurrences, however our concern, the present administration beats them all," said Teodoro, who is a member of the CMFR's Board of Trustees. 

These 128 threats and attacks are broken down as follows:

PANEL DISCUSSION. Veteran journalists gather to evaluate the state of press freedom under the Duterte administration.

Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

Incidents rose, Teodoro said, because there are new ways to intimidate journalists, especially through cyberspace. (READ: Philippines down 1 spot in 2019 World Press Freedom Index)

"Website attacks were very, very rare. Trolling, of course, [has been] exceptionally prevalent during the present regime," Teodoro said.

The attacks included the President's coverage ban which started in February 2018. (READ: TV, newspaper journalists join Rappler petition vs Duterte coverage ban)

Some 50 of these attacks and threats happened to online reporters, while the rest happened to radio reporters (36 cases), print reporters (25 cases), television reporters (13 cases), multimedia reporters (3), and a photographer (1). Victims of the attacks and threats included 66 men and 33 women from 29 news organizations.

Most or 63 of the reported incidents occurred in Metro Manila, followed by Central Luzon (8 cases) and Caraga (7 cases).

Teodoro said that monitoring attacks against the press matters now more than ever, because journalists are needed to watch over officials who can abuse their powers.

"Its task as the fourth estate in monitoring government is crucial in public understanding of whether key officials are focused on addressing the country's many problems or are merely enriching themselves – but as an institution that can flourish and achieve that task only at the conditions of freedom not only for itself, but for all," Teodoro said. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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