Despite gains, PH still ‘difficult’ place for press | Inquirer News

Despite gains, PH still ‘difficult’ place for press

/ 05:54 AM May 04, 2023

Folders with focus on one marked PRESS FREEDOM. STORY: Despite gains, PH still ‘difficult’ place for press Stock Photo

MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines marked World Press Freedom Day, veteran and fledgling journalists on Wednesday reflected on their “slightly improving, but still dismal” working conditions in a country that remains a danger zone for reporters.

These marginal gains were reflected in the Philippines’ latest ranking in the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), jumping 15 places from 147th last year to 132nd in 2023, out of 180 countries.


Even so, according to the RSF report, the Philippines remains a “difficult” country for the press, especially with the Marcos administration’s refusal to restore ABS-CBN’s franchise and the continued harassment of alternative media sites like Bulatlat.


Still, there have been some small wins, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) executive director Melinda Quintos de Jesus said during a forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

‘Amiable’ toward media

For one, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., despite earlier fears he would maintain the antagonism shown toward the press by his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, “has been ‘amiable’ toward us… and as far as his speeches go, he seems to have turned the pages compared to his predecessor’s actions,” she said.


In fact, Marcos had challenged the press during the 50th anniversary of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas to “bring a measure of stability, objectivity, to help our people discern what is real information and what is propaganda.”

His demeanor so far has been a far cry from Duterte’s openly hostile attitude toward the press, De Jesus said.

This “improvement,” she added, “does show that attacking the media is no longer the government’s No. 1 priority.”

“However, there has been no real, visible action to prevent the kinds of attacks that made Duterte’s regime as dark as it has ever been for the media,” she cautioned.

Citing data from a new report by CMFR and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, De Jesus noted that there had been at least 75 incidents of threats and attacks against the press in the past 10 months.

Of these, at least 40 involved Red-tagging, or the practice of branding critics as communists, and other intimidation tactics carried out by state agents, while 10 were new libel and cyberlibel complaints over adverse reporting, along with the unresolved murders of broadcasters Rey Blanco and Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.

The large number of red-tagging cases “suggests that Marcos has not yet departed from the tradition of deploying state agents on all fronts… [on] actively going after the media,” De Jesus said.

Room for optimism

But there’s room for optimism, other journalists said.

Veteran broadcaster Ed Lingao, speaking at another forum hosted by the Asian Center for Journalism, said technological innovations like social media and artificial intelligence were helping sharpen journalists’ skills.

Reporters are also starting to unlearn deep-seated biases against platforms like TikTok and “braving new spaces and to meet the audience where they are,” ABS-CBN reporter Jeff Canoy said.

“Before, the emphasis has always been on legacy journalism and on text. Now we have a better understanding of other ways we can awaken public conscience,” added freelancer Rambo Talabong.

Outside Metro Manila, provincial journalists are learning to collaborate with one another to protect themselves from danger.

“In our province, we don’t have things like scoops and exclusives,” said Cotabato-based journalist Drema Quitayen.

“We share and collaborate with each other. For example, if we have a damning story about a mayor, we share it among ourselves to take the targets off our backs,” Quitayen said.

As demoralized reporters were leaving the media profession in droves, Lingao said it was “ultimately up to you to find the passion in what we do” without romanticizing journalism.

He recalled how he once packed up to work in public relations, “but after two months, I left.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“I crawled back to this shithole that was journalism, because I knew that someone had to brave all of this,” Lingao said, adding: “I knew it had to be me.”


UN rings the alarm on diminishing global press freedoms

PH keeps ‘partly free’ status in world freedom report

Press freedom declines worldwide in 2022

TAGS: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, journalists, Melinda Quintos de Jesus, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine press, Reporters Without Borders, World Press Freedom Day

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

News that matters

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.