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Endangered Press

The annual roundup of cases of violence and abuses against the world’s journalists by Reporters Without Borders paid tribute to the “faces, personalities, talent and commitment of those who have paid with their lives for their information gathering, their search for the truth and their passion for journalism,” as press freedom continued its decline.

The past year saw over 530 journalists detained and 57 killed in the line of duty, as loosened travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed more journalists to do more reporting on the field but also led to more being killed or detained across the world.

RSF noted the case of Tacloban journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who had been working for a local alternative outfit called Eastern Vista where she reports on the plight of marginalized sectors. She currently remains in detention over charges of illegal possession of explosives and firearms.

Cumpio’s case is emblematic of another troubling pattern in press freedom last year which saw a record rise in women journalists put behind bars. At the end of 2022, women accounted for 14.6 percent of imprisoned journalists, compared to five years ago, when only seven in 100 journalists were women.

“This rise both reflects the growing population of women in journalism and confirms that women are not spared from the repression faced by journalists,” RSF said in its annual report. “Like their male colleagues, they are victims of the regimes that are harshest towards press freedom.”

Even more worrisome for RSF is that the 2022 death toll is the highest in the past four years. Although at least 8 of the 57 deaths this year were traced back to the war in Ukraine, RSF noted that “more journalists who have been killed in ‘zones of peace’ than in ‘zones of war’ during the past two decades, in most cases because they were investigating organized crime and corruption.”

RSF took particular notice of the Philippines, which recorded over 100 journalists killed since 2003.

Rising violence and abuses against journalists may be a global trend, but it does not give the Philippine government an excuse to continue doing nothing about it. It is no coincidence that journalists continue to be easy targets in this country where the rich and powerful have access to an array of weapons at their disposal, legal or otherwise. It is up to government to provide the necessary protection for the members of the media while at the same time actively defanging all potential threats that continue to be wielded with impunity.*

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January 2023
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