August 30 declared National Press Freedom Day

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
August 30 declared National Press Freedom Day
File photo taken during a rally calling for press freedom.
The STAR / Krizjohn Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has signed into law a measure declaring Aug. 30 of every year as National Press Freedom Day as his administration continues to draw flak over its actions that allegedly discourage independent and critical reporting.

Republic Act 11699 signed by Duterte on April 13 states that National Press Freedom Day will be a working holiday in honor of Marcelo del Pilar, father of Philippine journalism.

Del Pilar, who wrote under the pen name “Plaridel,” was born on Aug. 30, 1850.

The education department, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, in consultation with the Office of the President and media organizations, were directed to lead public and private schools at all levels in “organizing consciousness-raising activities on the importance of the press, their rights and social responsibilities and the elimination of all forms of violence against the press.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has claimed that the Philippine press is “under siege” under Duterte, citing the cases filed against Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, the cyber attacks against Bulatlat, Kodao and the Northern Dispatch, the arrest of journalist Lady Ann Salem and the shutdown of ABS-CBN, which displaced thousands of workers during the pandemic.

The Philippines’ ranking in the World Press Freedom Index dropped two notches from 136 in 2020 to 138 last year even if it is said to be the home of the freest press in Asia.

Officials have insisted that Duterte respects press freedom, noting his issuance of an executive order on freedom of information and the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.

They have also noted that Duterte has not filed libel cases against his critics.

In his message for the fifth anniversary of the media security task force last October, Duterte said press freedom is “vital in a nation’s vibrant democracy.”


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