Reporters Without Borders today released its Press Freedom Index for 2009. In it, the Philippines ranks 122, compared to last year’s 139. This suggests that press freedom in the Philippines has improved, regardless of the many killings, attacks and intimidation being faced by Filipino journalists.
The index, which the Paris-based press-freedom group has been putting out in the past six years, “grades” each country — this year, 175 of them — “on the basis of questionnaires that are completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts around the world. This year’s index reflects press freedom violations that took place between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009.”
On top of the list is Denmark while Eritrea sits at the bottom.
This year, RSF finds it disturbing “to see European democracies such as France, Italy and Slovakia fall steadily in the rankings year after year. Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home?”
As to the Philippines, its ranking over the years indicates a worsening of press freedom in the country. The country ranked 118 in 2003 (worse than Rwanda), slightly improved in 2004 to 111, then dropped to 139 in 2005. The next year, 2006, the drop was a low 142 — tying with the Republic of Congo and worse than Sri Lanka. The Philippines’s ranking slightly improved in 2007, to 128.
The huge drop in ranking in 2005 and 2006 were, of course, the result of the murders of journalists and the Arroyo regime’s efforts to muzzle the press in the wake of the NBN-ZTE and Hello Garci scandals.
The fact, however, that the Philippines improved its ranking this year is small comfort. After all, the rank of the Philippines in 2002 — the year the first index was put out and the second year in power of the Arroyo regime — was a high 89.