Presidential media task force blasts findings on state of PH press freedom

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The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) criticized on Sunday the biased and contradicting year-end reports issued by so-called media watchdogs that portrayed Philippine press freedom in a bad light.

In the “2020 Round-up” released by the French-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF), the group claimed that at least three Filipino journalists were killed this year on account of their work. On the other hand, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that the Philippine government “have fallen short” in protecting media workers.

“This is a clear example of a terribly biased observation by so-called international media watchdogs that do not actually contribute- in both nominal and moral terms- in the global campaign to safeguard press freedom,” PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said.

“These organizations do not conduct actual investigations on the ground and rely mainly on poisoned information and disinformation from their local contacts who are usually ignorant or, at the very least, clueless on how to contextually appreciate a particular case,” he added.

According to PTFoMS, only one journalist, Rex Pepino, was actually killed in the line of duty this year. Reporter turned politician Jobert Bercasio was probably killed due to his political rhetoric while Virgilio Maganes was no longer working as a journalist at the time he was shot dead.

The task force said that the government has already identified and filed charges against some suspects in the slaying of Pepino, and the cases of Bercasio and Maganes are nearing resolution.

Also, there were more journalists killed during the two previous administrations than in the present administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

More importantly, there were far more perpetrators of media violence that were arrested and convicted in the present administration than in all other previous administrations combined.

With regard to CPJ’s statement, Egco pointed that it was only last December 19, 2019 when Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes convicted Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan, the masterminds of the infamous Maguindanao Massacre, of 57 counts of murder and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua without parole. 28 other co-accused including police officers were also convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to 40 years, while 15 other accused were sentenced to 6–10 years for being accessories to the crime.

SUPPORT FOR PRESS FREEDOM

Egco said that the conviction was a product of the immense support thrown by President Duterte to the victims of the massacre. He clarified that the massacre happened during the time of President Gloria Arroyo and despite his numerous promises, no verdict happened during the time of President Noynoy Aquino. It was only through the political will of President Duterte that justice was finally achieved.

“The reports of RSF and CPJ are products of lazy and irresponsible journalism. I call out on the RSF and the CPJ leaderships for making haphazard conclusions based on raw, incomplete and politically-biased information. It’s a shame for these people to proclaim themselves as protectors of press freedom when the fact is that they are actually the opposite,” Egco added. CURRENTPH

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