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PH media not alone in siege vs press

/ 12:00 AM April 29, 2017
President Duterte shows off a bunch of papers claiming those contained a list of unpaid taxes of owners of Philippine Daily Inquirer, which he is lambasting for its coverage of extrajudicial killings.  —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

President Duterte shows off a bunch of papers claiming those contained a list of unpaid taxes of owners of Philippine Daily Inquirer, which he is lambasting for its coverage of extrajudicial killings. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

WASHINGTON, DC — Philippine media are not alone in facing continuing threats to global press freedom, which has hit a 13-year low, according to a study by a US-based human rights group.

Press freedom around the globe, according to a survey by Freedom House, has hit its record low amid threats from US President Donald Trump’s media bashing and restrictions pursued by democratic and authoritarian regimes.

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“Political leaders and other partisan forces in many democracies—including the United States, Poland, the Philippines, and South Africa—attacked the credibility of independent media and fact-based journalism, rejecting the traditional watchdog role of the press in free societies,” said Jennifer Dunham, who headed the research.

In the 2016 study of 199 countries, the group concluded that just 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a “free press” where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs minimal and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.

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Another 42 percent of the world’s population has a “partly free” press and 45 percent live in countries where the media environment is “not free,” the group said.

Friday’s report echoed a similar survey released this week by France-based Reporters Without Borders, which said press freedom is facing serious threats in 72 countries, downgrading the rankings of the United States, Britain and others.

The Freedom House report said press rights are being eroded by the efforts of politicians in democratic states to shape news coverage and discredit media outlets.

“When politicians lambaste the media, it encourages their counterparts abroad to do the same,” Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz said.

Press freedom was on a modest decline in the United States even before Trump took office because of the industry’s financial woes and news organizations’ increasingly partisan positions, the report said.

But Trump is worsening the situation with his attacks on “fake news” and characterization of the news media as “enemies of the people,” according to Freedom House.

Russia especially is taking advantage of the situation by seeking to manipulate news and social media content in other countries, Freedom House said.

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“Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia has been a trailblazer in globalizing state propaganda,” the report said.

The worst scores for press freedom went to North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and the top to Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden. The global average fell to new lows.

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TAGS: Donald Trump, Freedom House, Philippine media, press freedom
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