By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – The Philippines’ ranking dropped once again at the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by international media organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines echoed the findings of RSF saying, “[We are] not at all surprised that the country consistently slid down lower in the World Press Freedom Index for the past three years,” said the national directorate in a statement.
The index evaluates the press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories annually, and takes into account “people’s access to information and the obstacles to news coverage.”
In 2019, the country ranked 134th out of 180 countries, and fell two places in 2020 at 136th. This year, the Philippines’ ranked 138th and was classified by the RSF as one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists and bloggers.
The RSF cited the ABS-CBN shutdown, ‘grotesque judicial harassment’ against online news source Rappler, and online attacks against alternative media outfits to deem the press freedom in the country difficult amidst the pandemic.
“We also documented 27 cases of libel and cyberlibel against journalists, which were mostly filed last year. What is even more vicious under this administration is how it treats journalists as enemies of the state. Independent journalists are routinely labeled as left-leaning,” NUJP added.
The group specified the case of community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who was labeled as a terrorist and remains in prison over trumped-up charges.
READ: Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s brave truth-telling
The NUJP also cited the new Anti-Terror Law as a mechanism that would enable state security forces to tag journalists as terrorists more conveniently and easily should the former perceive news reports as against the official narrative.
“Amid the heightening attacks on press freedom, we call on our colleagues to unite in defending the truth and our democracy,” the group stated.