Rody hit over threats on journalists

WASHINGTON – President Duterte’s slurs and death threats against journalists have further inflamed an already dangerous environment for journalists in the Philippines, Freedom House said.

In its annual report on media freedom around the world, the Washington-based non-governmental organization said Duterte’s hostile rhetoric against the media raised concerns his subordinates and supporters could act on his violent threats against journalists who criticize abuses linked to the government’s war on drugs.

The Philippines lacks a robust freedom of information law, and national security and privacy justifications are regularly employed to obstruct access to government information, said the Freedom of the Press 2017 report released here on Friday. It remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

The report said global press freedom has declined to its lowest point in 13 years due to unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in many democracies including the Philippines and intensified crackdowns by authoritarian governments.

The non-governmental organization said 61 out of 199 countries and territories it assessed enjoy a free press where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.

Seventy-two, including the Philippines, have a partly free press and 66 do not have a free press.

The Philippines received a total score of 44 out of 100, the same as the previous year.

The report said private and public media in the Philippines offer a wide range of views and provide coverage of controversial topics, though media freedom is compromised by the threat of legal action.

Journalists who investigated the Duterte administration’s role in extrajudicial killings carried out as part of its war on drugs frequently faced harassment and death threats, the report said.

Although Duterte in October sought to allay journalists’ concerns for their safety by creating a Presidential Task Force empowered to investigate crimes against them, no major investigations were initiated by year’s end.