Filipino media calls on Marcos Jr to protect press freedom
The elected president urged not to repeat the abuses committed by his father and his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte
A student holds a sign during a protest on the grounds of Manila State University on February 14, 2019, in support of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, who was arrested the day before in a cyber defamation case. Ressa was later convicted in a case that sparked international censorship and allegations that she was targeted over her news site’s criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo: AFP)
In the Philippines, concerned journalists have urged President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos to protect press freedom and journalists.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said on May 26 that it hopes the next president will not look back on the horrors experienced by the media during the years of martial law imposed by his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Sr.
He also said the new president should do more to protect them in a country that was ranked the seventh most dangerous country for journalists in the world according to the 2021 Global Impunity Index published by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Many have been murdered for exposing corruption within political circles, the NUJP said.
The union’s call came after Marcos Jr. promised to fight corruption with the help of the media.
“We must, at the very least, reduce the corrosive influence of corruption in government as a whole…with the help of our friends in the media,” he told reporters May 26.
“Although restored by the ousting of Marcos Sr. in 1986, media freedom deteriorated and Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership saw an increase in attacks on journalists and independent media”
The NUJP said at least 25 journalists have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, not far from the 34 known to have been murdered during the reign of Marcos Sr.
The group of journalists said Marcos Jr. must assure Filipinos that this worrying trend does not continue and that he will not restrict or regulate media coverage when it suits him.
“Although restored by the ousting of Marcos Sr. in 1986, media freedom deteriorated and Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership saw an increase in attacks on journalists and independent media,” the NUJP said.
He was also referring to lawsuits against journalists like Nobel laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, convicted of cyber defamation in 2020, and the shutdown of major broadcaster ABS-CBN following criticism from the administration of Duterte.
The NUJP also cited the country’s poor ranking of 147 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index.
“The guarantee of media freedom must be implemented by enacting freedom of the press laws, establishing independent media councils, decriminalizing defamation, ending censorship and media bans and ending the prosecution,” he said.
He said having a strong media base was the mark of a strong democratic nation.
“Independent and fair elections are not only about freedom of choice and knowledge of how to vote, but also about a participatory process in which voters engage in public debate and are provided with adequate information about parties, policies, candidates and the electoral process itself. Therefore, the public needs credible information before making their choice,” the union said.
“In addition, the media act to monitor the conduct of the elections and maintain a transparent process. Thus, democratic elections must not ignore media freedom.