In recognition of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, President Rodrigo Duterte has pledged to do everything in his power to protect the press from any form of ‘threat’ and ‘intimidation’ that may hamper its ability to serve the public. 

Duterte shared his strengthened commitment through a taped video message released by the Presidential Communications Operations Office. 

“This year’s theme affirms the nature of news and information as a public good that must be utilized effectively to achieve their intended benefits. Moreover, the messenger itself, the press, must be protected from all forms of threat and intimidation so that they may fully serve the best interest of our people,” he said. 

Besides this, Duterte also reiterated the media’s responsibility of upholding the truth – more so now that news is ever so accessible.

“In this digital age where information is created and shared rapidly, the work of both traditional and emerging media requires a stronger commitment in upholding truth and accuracy,” he shared in a separate statement. 

Although the Duterte administration’s message for 2021 bodes well for the Philippine press, the same can’t be said about what happened last year.

In 2020, ABS-CBN officially went off-air after its 25-year franchise expired and the House of Representatives voted not to approve its new franchise application.

Previously, in February of the same year, Duterte said he will not allow the television network to operate even if its license gets approval in Congress – citing the network’s unpaid loans to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

However, the DBP has debunked this claim, noting that ABS-CBN – owned by the Lopez Holding Corporation – does not have any outstanding obligations. 

Apart from this, the Philippines has also dropped two places in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, which was released by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. The country landed itself in the 138th spot compared to the previous year’s 136th. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque brushed the issue aside, mentioning the country’s rank is still higher than what it was during the past administration.

The drop in the country’s ranking has been attributed to multiple attacks on the local press – specifically the red-tagging of journalists. 

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Image credit: RTVM and PCOO