FACT CHECK: Sen. Zubiri’s ‘free’ PH media claim lacks context

Dec. 17, 2022

CLAIM: Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on November 7 it is “unfair” for the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) stressing its concern over reports of human rights violations in the Philippines.

Among the concerns of the UN committee in its concluding observations on the fifth periodic report on the country is the “persistent violation” of the freedom of expression, particularly the “reports of restricted press freedom”.

When asked during a press conference whether the UNHRC’s observations of the country “damages the image of the country”, Zubiri said

“We have a free media. You are [sic] guys are all free. [Nami-]misquote nga ako minsan, eh. Naiinis nga ako sa inyo minsan. You take my quote out of context kaya pinapa-record ko na, eh. Alam mo, we have a very free media as compared to Singapore, as compared to Malaysia, as compared to Vietnam”.

(We have a free media. You are [sic] guys are all free. I’m even misquoted sometimes. I’m upset with you sometimes. You take my quote out of context. That’s why I’ve asked for everything to be recorded. You know, we have a very free media as compared to Singapore, as compared to Malaysia, as compared to Vietnam.)



In a television interview, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairperson Jonathan de Santos said the country is “partly free” when it comes to publishing stories and covering certain issues, but undeniably, “there is a fear of reprisal, and there actually have been cases of reprisals.”

As of October 12 this year, the NUJP documented 17 cases of attacks on press freedom since July 1 when the Marcos administration began.

Highlighted in the UNHRC report are reports on killings of journalists, closure of media outlets, “the prevalent use of criminal and civil legal actions against journalists and media”, and “the widespread harassment and intimidation of journalists; and cyberattacks, including State-sponsored attacks, against independent media outlets, severely disrupting their operations”.

Meanwhile, Zubiri’s claim that the Philippines has a ‘very free media’ compared to countries like Malaysia and Singapore was wrong. 

The Philippines‘ ranking in the World Press Freedom Index slipped nine notches to 147th among 180 countries this year, while Malaysia placed 113th and Singapore, 139th. Vietnam, on the other hand, ranked lower than the three countries at 174th.

The country still ranks the seventh most dangerous country in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Global Impunity Index 2022.

Davao Today is part of #FactsFirstPH which brings together various sectors that are committed to promoting truth in the public space, and exacting accountability on those who harm it with lies. For those interested to join the initiative, email info@factsfirst.ph.

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