The dynamism of the Philippine press has been challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte, who repeatedly hurled threats against journalists, Reporters Without Borders noted.
The STAR/Kriz John Rosales
Foreign correspondents protest Philippine 'strong actions' vs press
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - April 27, 2018 - 4:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s organization of foreign correspondents on Friday expressed “alarm” over the government’s “strong actions” that violated the constitution’s guarantee of freedom of information.

In a statement, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines cited incidents in recent days that barred its members from covering press briefings of government officials and asking them questions.

“The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) is deeply alarmed by the Philippine government’s strong actions that clearly violate Constitutional provisions on freedom of information,” the group said in a statement.

FOCAP said that the latest incident in which the government restricted access to information happened in Singapore after its members were stopped from covering a news conference on Friday by Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III who was part of the Philippine delegation in the summit of Southeast Asian leaders there.

FOCAP said that its members were barred from covering Bello’s media briefing even if its members were accredited by the government’s International Press Center.

This incident followed the restrictions FOCAP members faced in covering the media conference of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also in Singapore.

“FOCAP members were blocked from a news conference given by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. They were subsequently allowed access, but were barred from asking questions during the press event,” the group said.

FOCAP said that these were not isolated events as its members also faced press restrictions in the coverage of the five-month battle for Marawi City and the closure of the popular tourist island of Boracay.

Just this week, the country’s press freedom ranking in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders slipped from 127th to 133rd this year.

The watchdog said that the dynamism of the Philippine press was challenged by the tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against it, a charge that his spokesman denied.

“Our record will stand for itself. We have taken steps to protect the lives of journalists. We have not sent any reporter to jail,” Presidential spokesman Roque said in a press conference in the palace on Thursday, adding that it was natural for the chief executive to answer “untrue” stories published by the media.

Roque said that this year’s ranking was still better than the Philippines’ 138th rank in 2016 and its 141st place in 2015.

Duterte has been criticized for his verbal, and some claim legal, attacks on critical media organizations in the Philippines.

FOCAP is also alarmed at reports that the House of Representatives has passed a rule threatening to revoke media accreditation of outfits whose reports “besmirch the reputation” of the body.

It said that this rule gave a “wide latitude” for interpretation and could be used to limit critical press.

The group said that in a meeting with Communications Assistant Secretary Queeni Rodulfo in November 207 she agreed to allow Filipinos working for foreign media outfits “unfettered access to the president’s media events as well as other international press events.”

“Government must clarify and spell out clear guidelines on media coverage so as to avoid similar incidents in the future,” it said.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES PRESS FREEDOM SILVESTRE BELLO III
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