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Roque claims Duterte tirades don't threaten press freedom

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque claimed on Thursday, April 26, that President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades against the media do not threaten press freedom, even as the Philippines' ratings dropped in the World Press Freedom Index. 

The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, released by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, showed the Philippines dropping by 6 spots. The report cited how the Duterte administration "developed several methods for pressuring and silencing journalists who criticize his notorious war on drugs."

Asked if Duterte's tirades endanger press freedom in the Philippines, Roque pointed out that Rappler's Malacañang reporter, Pia Ranada, can still "write her stories" despite having been banned from Malacañang. This supposedly means Duterte's rants have not "prevented" her from doing her job." 

Roque, however, said other Malacañang reporters "are in a better position than her" because they have physical access to the President.

Roque, a former press freedom advocate, then said that journalists "should always value their relationship with their subjects" if they want to maintain access to them.

"Puwede ba naman 'yung babatuhin mo nang babatuhin tapos gusto mong maging kaibigan 'yung subject mo para magkaroon ka ng access? No," Roque said. (You keep on hitting your subject, yet to still expect to be friends with him so you can get access? No.)

Ranada, however, stressed in a Rappler blog that reporters "aren't obligated to please government officials." (READ: [OPINION] We're not here to be your friends)

"A reporter who is too chummy with public officials, who allows the wave of an official's popularity to get in the way of critical reporting, deserves the suspicion and doubts of the public they are supposed to serve," Ranada wrote.

She added: "For Roque, it seems, relationships with the powerful trump all other considerations. Perhaps such thinking is acceptable for politicians. But journalists are not politicians."  Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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