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Philippines: CHR urges government to protect press freedom


CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, issued a statement on the worsening state of press freedom in the Philippines.

Free speech and expression are critical in holding power to account. Journalists and other media practitioners are holding the line to defend accountability in a democracy, most especially in an environment that tends to tolerate impunity. The 2021 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) suggests that the Philippines is facing a worse state of press freedom as it slipped from 136th last year to 138th this year out of the 180 countries surveyed.

Consistently, and on repeated occasions, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed grave concern over the worsening state of media freedom in the country and calls out the state's long history of suppressing various forms of free speech and truth-telling. This is concretely reflected in a wave of persecutions directed towards journalists and media institutions, as a recurring theme in the current administration's actions and pronouncements.

It is also alarming to note that some pieces of our legislation, such as the Cybercrime Prevention Law and the Anti-Terrorism Act, pose legitimate 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. Moreover, the government has afforded to shut down a major broadcasting network last year in the midst of a national health crisis depriving people access to timely and relevant information.

In the spirit of National Broadcasters' Month this April, we highlight how journalists' work indeed is the vaccine to disinformation and misinformation. In a time of global pandemic, their job has never been more important to tackle the science surrounding the public health crisis.

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. 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."

If the government is true to its commitment in upholding its human rights obligations, it shall hold hand with a free press in ensuring a meaningful, transparent, and responsive engagement with its citizens based on fact, reason, and science.

CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia

Date: 22 April 2021

Source: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines