DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A human rights group condemned the alleged ongoing assault, particularly by government, on the members of the press in the Philippines, in time for the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, May 3.
In a dispatch posted at the website of Human Rights Watch on Monday, April 30, Carlos H. Conde, the group’s researcher in its Asia Division decried the Philippine government’s issuances of regulations that are aimed to suppress press freedom in the country.
“Filipino journalists will spend World Press Freedom Day on May 3 under government attack,” Conde averred in his dispatch entitled “Relentless Assault on the Philippine Press Legal Restrictions, Intimidation Seek to Suppress Criticism”.
Conde criticized the latest regulation issued by the House of Representatives that “would allow Congress to ban reporters who “besmirch” the reputation of lawmakers from covering the national legislature.”
Late in April this year, the House, particularly the Press and Public Affairs Bureau (PPAB) has proposed new guidelines on the accreditation of the members of the media.
The guidelines, aside from prohibiting members of the press accused of “damaging” the reputations of the members of the House, also listed several violations and prohibitions that would serve as the basis to block an application or even cancel an issued ID to any members of the media.
PPAB has enumerated a number of violations that would lead to the restriction of a member of the press from covering activities in the House.
These violations include: making false claims; involvement in activities that run counter to or violate the policies of the House; abuse on the privileges and entitlements extended to a member of the press accredited at the House; if found guilty of gross misconduct; if the bearer besmirches the reputation of the House of Representatives, its officials, or members if the bearer commits any other similar acts or misdeeds.
The new guidelines were highly criticized by the members of the press in the country.
Conde described the House guidelines as dangerously ambiguous and stifling and viewed by the people as a form of “restriction on freedom of expression” and an “affront to their pride in their country’s free if freewheeling press.”
He also attributed the measure as the latest in a series of attacks made by President Rodrigo Duterte against the members of the press, aimed to silence critical voices.
“While the government has been especially ferocious against people and organizations demanding accountability for the government’s “drug war,” which has killed more than 12,000 people since July 2016, any criticism of the administration seems subject to reprisal,” Conde pointed out.
He also hit Duterte’s provocative statements against the members of the media that are openly uttered in public, the targeting of news outlets, and the justifications that the President is doing in issuing threats against them.
Conde said the “increasingly hostile environment for the Philippine press has not gone unnoticed” and that the country’s press freedom global ranking has significantly reduced, based on the report presented by the 2018 World Press Freedom Index of the Reporters Without Borders or RSF for Reportes Sans Frontieres.
The country’s rating dropped to 133 with a score of 42.53 this year from 127 last year, the report from RSF in April said.
“The assault on media freedom resonates loudly on World Press Freedom Day. Filipino journalists, true to the tradition of political muckraking, corruption exposés, and wartime reporting have often put their lives on the line, serving the Philippine people and democratic values in the process. It’s important that their efforts are supported – including by the Philippine Congress,” Conde concluded. (davaotoday.com)