“This is a very great concern for the CPJ and the international community, because the Philippines has long enjoyed a very robust free press. We are concerned that not a lot is being done to protect your (Filipino journalists) ability to work without fear of retribution, prosecution, and attack.”
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA — A high-level mission of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raised alarm over the “shrinking space for free press in the Philippines” in a press conference, April 16.
The CPJ mission said it believes that the attacks and threats against critical media organizations are politically motivated.
The New York-based group cited the 11 legal cases filed against Rappler and the cyber attacks against small media outfits.
Leading the group is CPJ’s Board chair Kathleen Carroll, joined by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler and Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom director Peter Greste.
The group met with various media groups as well as government officials, such as the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), the secretary of the Department of Justice, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, AlterMidya, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines since April 14.
“Government forces are finding new and increasingly sophisticated ways to shut down press freedom. So the attacks on Rappler and others have a chilling effect across all journalists. That is profoundly damaging the country’s democracy,” Greste said.
“Our concern [is], not just about Rappler, but on the broader impact on the freedom of the press on the Philippines,” Butler for his part said.
Carroll explained that what concerns them most were the media killings and the dismissive stance of the PTFoMS on the cyber-attacks against news organizations.
“Not taking the (cyber attacks) as an issue is a mistake, and we hope that they reconsider, ” she said.
Carroll added the “red-tagging” of journalists and media people to be “very frightening.”
“This is a very great concern for the CPJ and the international community, because the Philippines has long enjoyed a very robust free press. We are concerned that not a lot is being done to protect your (Filipino journalists) ability to work without fear of retribution, prosecution, and attack,” said Carroll.
The group is set to publish its official mission report on its website after finalizing all the details.
The Philippines ranks fifth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which measures the extent to which the killers of journalists escape punishment.
The 2009 Ampatuan massacre, in which 32 of those killed were journalists, remains the worst single incident of journalist killing in CPJ records.