‘President Marcos respects press freedom’

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
�President Marcos respects press freedom�
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. presides over his sixth Cabinet meeting at the Malacañang Palace on Tuesday.

MANILA, Philippines — As the country observed National Press Freedom Day for the first time yesterday, the Office of the Press Secretary gave assurance that the Marcos administration respects freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Constitution.

“The government, under the leadership of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., recognizes and respects press freedom in our country that is stated in the Constitution,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in Filipino in a Facebook post.

Republic Act 11699, which declared Aug. 30 of every year as National Press Freedom Day, was signed into law in April by former president Rodrigo Duterte.

The working holiday is in honor of Marcelo H. del Pilar, regarded as the father of Philippine journalism.

While the Philippines is dubbed as the home of the freest press in Asia, various media watchdogs have expressed concern over the constraints that Filipino journalists face as they carry out their responsibilities.

The Philippines’ ranking in the World Press Freedom Index slipped nine notches to 147th among 180 countries this year, according to a report released by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in May this year.

The RSF cited what it described as the government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment since 2016 on journalists and media outlets that are critical of the administration.

Journalists who covered Marcos during the 2022 election campaign have complained about difficulties in gaining access to him.

Marcos has denied this, saying he is “always out in the public.”

Angeles said the freedom being enjoyed by journalists would not change under Marcos.

“You’re free to talk. We’re not changing anything. Whatever freedom we have now will always be our freedom. Our Constitution guarantees that,” she said during the oath taking of the officers of the National Press Club on Aug. 25.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it marked the first National Press Freedom Day with hope “despite knowing that the community is navigating a challenging media landscape.”

“Despite the recognition by law of the importance of the press, journalists still face issues on accreditation and access to government offices that they cover, labeled as purveyors of ‘fake news’ and remain under threat from a colonial-era libel law as well as from loose interpretations of laws like the Anti-Terrorism Act,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“More than government recognition, it is the media community’s assertion of freedom of the press and of expression and of the people’s right to know as well as the support from the public we serve that will make Aug. 30 – the birth anniversary of journalist and revolutionary propagandist Marcelo H. Del Pilar – a true celebration of press freedom and of journalism in the Philippines,” it added.

As this developed, journalists based in Central Luzon yesterday joined the first observance of the National Press Freedom Day in Del Pilar’s hometown in Bulakan, Bulacan.

Carmela Reyes-Estrope, president of the Central Luzon Media Association, said journalists attended a wreath-laying at the shrine of Del Pilar in Barangay San Nicolas in Bulakan town before joining the symbolic planting of cupang trees at the Gen. Gregorio del Pilar Integrated School, also located in Bulakan. – Ramon Efren Lazaro

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