THE Philippines ranks 138th among 180 countries in a world press freedom index report that described the country as having a “bad environment for journalism”.
Citing the report, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the 2021 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders or Reporters sans frontières (RSF) describes the Philippines as possessing “state troll armies [that] use the weapon of disinformation on social media,” like Russia, India and Vietnam.
The same report noted that Filipino journalists have been attacked by pro-government activists, citing similar incidents in Bangladesh and India.
In its summary of the situation of journalism in the country, the RSF accused the Duterte administration of targeting the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), how it waged a “grotesque judicial harassment campaign” against the online news platform, Rappler and its executive editor and chief executive officer (CEO) Maria Ressa, and the “threats and intimidation” faced by ABS-CBN television network.
“The persecution of the media has been accompanied by online harassment campaigns orchestrated by pro-Duterte troll armies, which also launched cyberattacks on alternative news website and the site of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in order to block them,” the RSF said.
Lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesman, said the report sends a firm message that the current political climate “exacerbates the danger and fears over the erosion of democratic and press freedom during these uncertain times”.
“We urge the government to provide legal protection to the members of the press while they perform their duty as the fourth estate, and to expedite the investigation of media-related killings and attacks, ” said de Guia.
“Such hostile treatment to journalists echoes the censorship and human rights violations that beset our nation during the martial law rule, in which we say: “Never Again,”” she said.
CHR raised concerns on the wave of persecutions directed towards journalists and media institutions, as a recurring theme in the current administration’s actions and pronouncements.
CHR also expressed alarm over the Cybercrime Prevention Law and the Anti-Terrorism Act that accordingly pose threats to further threaten freedoms of speech and expression, particularly in articulating political sentiments or dissent.
“This is an overt way of silencing criticisms toward government actions, or the lack thereof, in matters affecting public interest,” said de Guia.
The Philippines ranked 136th in 2020.