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Slipping further

The Philippines slid further down the latest World Press Freedom Index drawn up by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), ranking 147th out of 180 countries from 138th place last year.

In its county profile for the Philippines, RSF said President Duterte’s six-year term was marked by “countless verbal attacks coupled with judicial harassment targeting any media deemed overly critical of the government.”

It also noted that the Philippines is one of the deadliest countries for journalists, and impunity for media killings “is almost total.”

However, it said the Philippine media “are extremely vibrant despite the government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment, since 2016, of journalists and media outlets that are too critical.”

Malacañang pounced on that statement as it cherry picked to downplay this latest black eye. Acting presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said “Although the Philippines ranked 147th in this year’s index, Reporters Without Borders or RSF has acknowledged that the Philippine media are extremely vibrant.”

To make Filipinos feel better, Andanar also stressed that the country was not included in the RSF red list, which indicates “very bad press freedom situations.” He also noted that the Philippines was not included in RSF’s Worst Countries for Press Freedom.

With the steady decline under the current administration, the Philippines remains a long way from the 10 Best Countries for Press Freedom, which according to the 2022 index are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Costa Rica, Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

That the Philippine media remains “extremely vibrant” despite targeted attacks and constant harassment by its own government is testament to the tenacity and commitment of the local media that continues to do its job despite an increasingly hostile environment. It is the Filipino journalists, media workers, and even Nobel Laureates that deserve the pat on the back for fighting to keep press freedom alive despite the challenges, obstacles and threats.

Our country and its government shouldn’t keep its low standards of being happy with just doing enough to not make the red list or the world’s worst countries for press freedom. The goal should be to continuously improve the state of press freedom and maybe even aspire to be among the world’s best.*

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May 2022
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