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Journalists urged to fight back amid attacks vs Philippine press

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Journalists urged to fight back amid attacks vs Philippine press
Center for Freedom and Media Responsibility executive director Melinda Quintos de Jesus stressed that the dynamism of the Philippine press has been challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has a rocky relationship with journalists and media owners.
The STAR / Kriz John Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine press, touted as the freest and liveliest in Asia, is under attack, journalism practitioners said.

Center for Freedom and Media Responsibility executive director Melinda Quintos de Jesus stressed that the dynamism of the Philippine press has been challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has a rocky relationship with journalists and media owners.

“The president has shamed journalists publicly. Various media organizations have seen teams of plainclothes men hanging around their offices. Individual journalists have been trailed, trolled and threatened with sexual assault and crimes against them their families,” De Jesus said during the Jaime V. Ongpin Journalism Seminar on Thursday.

She added that the chief’s executive’s “punishing hand has shown its fist” to media companies such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN and Rappler. 

Duterte created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security in 2016 to address media killings but has also gone on tirades against journalists and media outlets that have been critical of his policies.

Early in August, Duterte said he is personally against the renewal of franchise of media giant ABS-CBN Corp., which he had accused of swindling him. ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise is due to expire in 2020.

Last January, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked the registration of Rappler, in what both local and international organizations called an act against press freedom.

Duterte is defended by bloggers with large followings on social media, who have frequently targeted journalists.

In the 2018 World Press Freedom Index of media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF), the Philippines slipped to 133rd from 127th out of the 180 countries on the list.

RSF also noted that the Philippines is the deadliest country for journalists in Asia after four of five media workers targeted by gunmen were killed in 2017.

Despite the unhealthy conditions that news agencies are facing, journalists cannot just sit down, the CMFR executives said.

“Yes, Philippine journalism is under siege and it needs to rise above itself, to fight back. Courage, principle, ethics, the better way for nation-building are demanded of journalists and would-be journalists,” CMFR board of trustees member Maribel Ongpin said.

“The media must continue their work even while they are watched by those who would rather silence the press,” De Jesus, a veteran journalist, said. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

PHILIPPINE PRESS

RODRIGO DUTERTE

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