Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières or RSF) has released the 20th World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) that shows the Philippines plummeting to 147th place out of 180, from 138 in 2021.
Further, the country’s global score this year is 41.84 compared to last year’s 54.36.
This means that the Philippines is considered a “difficult” area for journalists to work in. The range for this classification is 40 to 55 points, so in this sense nothing has changed.
Looking at the regional situation, the RSF analysis shows that Asia-Pacific is marked by “absolute and autocratic control of information,” particularly in Myanmar, where last year’s military coup led to “an extremely harsh repression of journalists” and led to an index score of 176.
The country “has become one of the world’s largest prisons for media professionals.” Afghanistan is ranked 156th because “the Taliban’s seizure of power has further worsened conditions for reporters and news organizations, who are the targets of all forms of intimidation and violence.”
The Philippines at 147 is only nine places away from Afghanistan. Let that sink in.
RSF says in the Philippines, “the media face pressure from increasingly authoritarian and/or nationalist governments,” with some “critical journalists [the] targets of intense harassment campaigns, such as the one aimed at Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa.”
The RSF, in compiling the WPFI, looks at five contextual indicators to inform its evaluation criteria: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and safety.
(The full methodology is explained on the RSF website).
The Philippines ranks lowest in the economic context at 169 with a global score of 23.13 and second lowest in safety/security at 159 (24.83). These global scores are in the ‘very serious’ range (0-40 points).
Among the questions evaluated in the economic context are “economic constraints linked to governmental policies (including the difficulty of creating a news media outlet, favoritism in the allocation of state subsidies, and corruption); economic constraints linked to non-state actors (advertisers and commercial partners); economic constraints linked to media owners seeking to promote or defend their business interests.”
The questions tackled in the safety context relate to journalists’ “ability to identify, gather, and disseminate news and information in accordance with journalistic methods and ethics, without unnecessary risk of: bodily harm (including murder, violence, arrest, detention, and abduction); psychological or emotional distress that could result from intimidation, coercion, harassment, surveillance, doxxing (publication of personal information with malicious intent), degrading or hateful speech, smears and other threats targeting journalists or their loved-ones; professional harm resulting from, for example, the loss of one’s job, the confiscation or professional equipment, or the ransacking of installations.”
Show these lists of questions to a Filipino journalist and they’ll tick off all these boxes as constraints and chilling effects on their reportage.
The recent cold-blooded murder of radioman Percy “Lapid” Mabasa is only one of the many, many abuses perpetrated upon journalists in this country.
RSF notes that the Philippines “is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists – as seen most shockingly when 32 reporters were massacred in the southern province of Maguindanao in 2009 – and impunity for these crimes is almost total.”
We can only hope that the investigation into Lapid/Mabasa’s slaying and its probe into the involvement and culpability of highly-connected and -placed individuals will result in justice being served without fear or favor.
The intimidation and killing of journalists who expose corruption in government only goes to show that corruption is the rot permeating all levels of the structure that is supposed to protect Filipinos and defend its rights.
Corruption is not about altruism but selfish agendas. Impunity results from the desire of greedy and evil individuals to hold on at all costs to what they have gained – power, influence, money – all the things that they can’t take with them to the grave.
The new administration should take note of the country’s stats in the WPFI and make serious, tangible efforts to improve them by ensuring better, safer conditions for the Filipino journalists.
As RSF noted, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security established in 2016 failed to “stem the vicious cycle of violence against journalists.”
The shame of being a country that is one of the worst for journalists, who provide a necessary check-and-balance to the State and other societal institutions, is something that should no longer be borne.
In addressing the situation to bring about positive change, the new government has a chance to create a substantial and significant legacy.
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The Cultural Center of the Philippines will host online and onsite book activities for children in line with the CCP’s Children’s Biennale 2022: Balangaw event this month.
Co-organized by the CCP Intertextual Division under Beverly Wico Sy, the Rainbow Readers: Batang Mambabasa para sa Kultura, Kalikasan, at Kalinga event is a multi-arts festival for children that will run from October to November at the CCP and online. ‘Balangaw’ is an archaic Tagalog and Hiligaynon word that means ‘rainbow.’
The festival will showcase indigenous arts and culture that honor Philippine heritage, show the value of preserving and respecting nature, and bridge cultural gaps among Filipino children from various communities through live or virtual performances, discussions, workshops, installations, exhibitions, and film screenings.
On November 11, two activities will be held: a storytelling event by AHA! Stories titled “AHA! Narito Na Kami!” at 4:00 p.m. at the CCP Little Theater Lobby featuring storyteller Steve Manzano who will read the book Ang Mga Alon sa Amin, written by Rainey Dolatre, Coleen Ramirez-Panahon, and Gina Alfonso, and illustrated by Ianthe Pimentel.
At 5:00 p.m., award-winning book creator Adrian Panadero will give an online talk organized by Tahanan Books.
In the presentation Bahay: A Tour of Traditional Filipino Homes, Panadero will share how his love for Philippine culture and architecture led to his career in children’s book publishing.
He will also show a preview of his brand-new cut-and-build scale model book featuring six traditional Filipino houses. The talk will be streamed on the Facebook pages of the CCP and CCP Intertextual Division.
The event is free and open to all.
Free copies of Dr. Rose Torres-Yu’s latest children’s book will be given away to lucky onsite participants.
Books from Southern Voices, Aklat Mirasol, and AHA! Stories will also be available for purchase at the CCP Little Theater Lobby from November 11 to 13.
* * * Dr. Ortuoste is a board member of PEN Philippines, member of the Manila Critics Circle, and judge of the National Book Awards. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO