Philippine press freest in Southeast Asia, says DOJ chief
MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine press “is the freest in the region,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday as he dared visiting foreign journalists to prove their allegations that press freedom in the country is diminishing.
“Contrary to the opinion of the visiting foreign journalists, I believe that the Philippine press is the freest in the region. Anyone can criticize or say anything against the government without fear of retaliation,” Guevarra said in reaction to reports by representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) from the US and Alliance for Journalists Freedom (AJF) from Australia.
CPJ and AJF took note of the “increasing levels of intimidation” against Filipino journalists and “shrinking space for the free press in the country.”
Guevarra said the foreign journalists made a hasty generalization after a two-day fact-finding probe.
The CPJ and AJF cited the 11 criminal cases filed against journalist Maria Ressa and her online news outfit Rappler as basis for their findings.
The groups claimed that the cases against Ressa and Rappler were a form of “formal and informal pressure on journalists… that appear to be politically motivated” and which “created a sense of fear throughout the media industry, leading to self-censorship.”
Guevarra rebutted this, saying the case of Rappler is an isolated one that has nothing to do with press freedom.
“Maria Ressa’s case is not reflective of the overall situation. Her cases arose from a violation of our Securities Code, which led to other cases such as tax evasion and anti-dummy charges. Her cyber libel case was initiated by a private individual, not by the government,” Guevarra pointed out. /gsg
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