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Protect journalists

The at least 293 journalists in different parts of the world who are currently in prison because of their work mark a new record that indicates a bleak year for press freedom defenders, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said.

The CPJ’s annual prison census showed that the number of imprisoned journalists increased from 280 last year. China remained the “world’s worst jailer of journalists” for the third year in a row with 50 incarcerated. It is followed by Myanmar, whose media crackdown following the February 1 military coup that toppled the democratically elected government resulted with the imprisonment of 26 journalists.

The Philippines is among the 37 countries identified as having at least one journalist in prison this year. Frenciemae Cumpio, executive director of the Eastern Vista news website and a radio news anchor in Tacloban City, has been in detention since February last year on charges of illegal possession of firearms. The number would be higher, but attempts to put Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa of Rappler behind bars have so far proved unsuccessful.

“This is the sixth year in a row that CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world. The number reflects two inextricable challenges – governments are determined to control and manage information, and they are increasingly brazen in their efforts to do so,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

CPJ’s prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have been disappeared or are held captive by non-state actors.

In addition to those imprisoned, CPJ said at least 24 journalists were killed because of their coverage this year. The list does not include the Philippines’ latest victim, Pampanga-based journalist Jess Malabanan, who was shot dead in Calbayog, Samar last Wednesday.

The murder of Malabanan makes it no wonder that Philippines ranks 7th in CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, making it one of the worst countries for journalists in the world.

Making the country safer for journalists is easier said than done but if a country or government is really committed to upholding democracy, the protection of journalists have to be a priority so they can do their work and expose the truth, no matter how unflattering or damaging it may be to those in power or those who want to be in positions in power but are hiding something.

Based on its actions as far as journalists and traditional media is concerned, where does our government’s priorities lie?*

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May 2022
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