On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists – November 2, 2022, the Council for People’s Development (CPDG) amplifies civil society’s call to ensure an enabling and safe environment for media practitioners and journalists.
Freedom of expression is compromised by a climate unfavorable to exercising basic freedoms. Impunity in crimes against journalists, countless threats, physical attacks, and repression particularly in the digital sphere, creates a climate of fear and impedes freedom of expression, and the people’s right to access correct and reliable information.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte, left the Philippines in 128th place out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index and 7th in the Global Impunity Index. There have also been 22 related killings of journalists and cases of arrests and detentions – notably the Tacloban 5 that includes community journalist Frenchiemae Cumpio. Media organizations, like Altermidya, have been red tagged and various alternative media sites have been shut down. Even huge media outfits like the ABS-CBN and Rappler are not exempted from the harassment.
Ultimately, “when either basic rights are attacked, journalists are all too frequently the first casualties and in the end, the Filipino people are the victims,” Rappler said in its article calling to end impunity and free expression. This is true enough – more so, with the full implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the Executive Order No. 70, which established the repugnant National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). All of these to restrict freedom of information and limit the people’s democratic rights.
Crimes against journalists continue with impunity under President Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s watch. At least 10 incidents of press freedom violations were documented just for the month of October 2022. Among the incidents is the assassination of radio broadcaster Percy Lapid on October 3, 2022. Lapid was a hard-hitting journalist and a critic of the Duterte and Marcos Jr. administrations.
The killing of journalists “strike at the very core of media freedom and can produce a chilling effect that curtails the ability of journalists to report news freely and safely,” the embassies of Canada and the Netherlands said in a joint statement on the killing of Percy Lapid.
Broadcaster Flo Hervias was attacked by four masked men outside his place of business a few days after Lapid’s murder, just in time for his show to air in Iloilo on October 7, 2022. Similar threats regarding Lapid’s assassination were sent to journalists Ed Lingao, Lourd De Veyra, and Rose Nevanario in social media. Even an unexpected police house visit also with a link to the Percy assassination case occurred at the home of journalist JP Soriano.
Commentators of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), also went on a red-tagging rampage on October 13, 2022 particularly hitting Ronalyn Olea, the managing editor of Bulatlat and the secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. Other known journalists, Atom Araullo, Inday Espina-Varona, and Vergel Santos were also red-tagged by the SMNI commentators.
As the United Nations is set to conduct the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines human rights situation this November 14, 2022, CPDG re-echoes the voices of various stakeholders and civil society organizations in their joint recommendations to ensure the Filipino people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly including among others, ensure that counter-terrorism measures respect fundamental freedoms and are not weaponized against legitimate dissenters and human rights activists; repeal the ATA 2020. Meantime, ensure that the ATA 2020 and other counter terrorism measures will not be weaponized to curtail legitimate dissent and violate rights and freedoms. These are among the priority recommendations presented last September 27, 2022 in a dialogue organized by the UN Philippines Office with the Philippines Commission on Human Rights and CPDG:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, including journalists and activists, detained for exercising their fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and review their cases to prevent further harassment.
- Abolish the NTF-ELCAC, disband paramilitary groups and revoke Executive Order 546.
- Ensure protection of lawyers, trade unionists, indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, journalists and other interest and advocacy groups. Among others, strengthen institutional coordination between CHR, DOJ-AO 35 and DOLE in the investigation of cases affecting freedom of association and assembly; abolish the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern (JIPCO) and Alliance for Industrial Peace Program (AIPP) and allow workers in economic zones to freely associate and organize.#eof#