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CEBU, Philippines – Members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called out the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) for claiming it got a “thumbs up” from United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan during her visit at the Central Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO 7) in Cebu City on Monday, January 29.
Khan is now in the Philippines, upon invitation from the government, to review the state of freedom of expression and opinion in the nation and meet with concerned civil society organizations and communities.
An article in The Freeman quoted PTFoMS chief of staff Hue Jyro Go as saying that that Khan admired the “plethora of freedom” in Cebu and that there were no arrests made during rallies here.
“It just shows how vibrant democracy is here and how vibrant the freedom of opinion and expression para sa ating mga kababayan and as well as sa mga media practitioners po natin,” The Freeman article quoted Go.
Go’s statement did not sit well with the NUJP Cebu. In a statement on its official Facebook page on Tuesday, January 30, NUJP Cebu said that the special rapporteur had yet to meet with journalists who had experienced human rights violations and oppression before the meeting with police and the presidential task force.
“It is in the later consultation with the media that she got to hear from victims of defamation and public shaming by government officials, of the weaponization of libel suits and other trumped up charges, red-tagging, gag orders, and the protracted process of investigations of crimes committed against the media,” their statement read.
They added that the testimonies of the victims debunked claims of “vibrant” press freedom in Cebu and that there were cases of journalist killings that were still unsolved.
Of the piling cases, NUJP Cebu cited the events that took the life of Renante Cortes, a radio commentator who was shot and killed in front of the DyRB radio station in Cebu City on July 22, 2021.
A few months after the Cortes case, radio blocktimer and Daily Tribune stringer Rico Osmeña was shot by riding-in-tandem gunmen while on a bus in downtown Cebu. Osmeña survived the ambush.
The press freedom advocates thanked Khan for meeting with the journalists to learn about their experiences and expressed their anticipation for the special rapporteur’s official initial recommendations to the country which will be released on Friday, February 2.
“It is in these initial recommendations that the Special Rapporteur will express her findings on the real score of the freedom of expression and of opinion in the country,” their statement read. – Rappler.com