MANILA, Philippines – The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a 3-member mission to the Philippines to meet with government officials about the "oppressive" conditions that journalists face in the country.
"The oppressive working environment for journalists in the Philippines is alarming," said CPJ board chairperson Kathleen Carroll on Tuesday, April 16, after meeting with officials from the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and Department of Justice (DOJ).
Carroll, Peter Greste from the Australia-based Alliance for Journalists' Freedom (AJF), and CPJ Asia program coordinator Steven Butler are in Manila this week for several meetings with journalists and government officials.
Carroll cited the 11 overall cases filed against Rappler in the last 14 months and said: "The Duterte government files case after case against Rappler while the President himself lobs sustained, often personal attacks against individual journalists. Online harassment of journalists is highly organized and vicious."
The CPJ also cited President Rodrigo Duterte's recurring threats to block the renewal of the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
These, the CPJ said, "appear to be politically motivated" and "have created a sense of fear throughout the media industry, leading to self-censorship."
"The overall impression that we get, when you look at this pattern, that there is a campaign of harassment, both by judicial harassment and unofficial harassment of news organizations," Greste told reporters in a news conference on Tuesday.
The CPJ mission also cited online threats against journalists, but expressed disappointment that the PTFoMS does not look into alleged cyberattacks against members of the media.
"I found that hard to believe and alarming," Carroll said.
Butler said they went to the Philippines because they believe it is important to draw international attention to the state of media here.
"The Philippines is a country that has enjoyed a great deal of press freedom; we came because we feel it is under pressure. It's a mission of hope that having experienced this kind of freedom of the press, we're hoping that it can be fully restored," he said.
In response to a question on whether they have experienced surveillance by state authorities during their visit, Butler said they have felt "very welcome."
Carroll also said: "The fact that we were able to meet with government officials is a very positive thing. It is important to note that they made time to meet with us." – Rappler.com