By JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL
MALACANANG PALACE, Manila
The Philippines has made significant progress in protecting journalists according to the 2020 Director-General Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In a press statement sent to the NCR News Bureau of the Philippine Muslim Today, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) welcomed the report as concrete proof of President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to safeguard press freedom in the country.
“This is a validation of the relentless efforts of the government through the task force in protecting the life, liberty, and security of media workers in the country amid the pandemic. While there is more work that needs to be done, rest assured that the Duterte administration will always uphold press freedom,” PTFoMS Co-Chair, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said.
PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, said that “Despite the rhetoric of some groups with questionable motives, UNESCO’s report shows that the government has made tremendous strides in the fight against perpetrators of media violence.”
According to UNESCO, “significant progress was made” by the country in the case of the 2009 Manguindanao Massacre, pointing out that on 19 December 2019 a Philippine court convicted 43 individuals, including the masterminds behind the attack.
The UNESCO report also highlighted that the Philippines were among a few countries that have set up or strengthened monitoring mechanisms to track attacks against journalists which have contributed to better reporting on the safety of journalists.
The report also emphasized that the Philippines has put up measures in place to prevent crimes against journalists and media workers and established specific bodies dedicated to ensuring the prosecution of crimes against journalists.
The Philippines is believed to be the first country in the world to establish a government body devoted exclusively to media security. On October 11, 2016, President Duterte created PTFoMS by virtue of Administrative Order No. 1 to establish an inter-agency task force with the goal of providing a safe environment for media workers.
UNESCO also made special mention that the Philippines launched in 2018 a “Handbook on Personal Security Measures for Media Practitioners” that provides good practices for journalists on how to protect themselves and their family against violence, threats and intimidation.
PTFoMS publishes the guide which are given free of charge to media workers. An updated edition was released in 2020.
While the report acknowledged there were some “worrying trends”, in 2018-2019, UNESCO recorded a total of 156 killings of journalists worldwide, a 14% drop from the previous two-year period. UNESCO said that 2019 in particular shows the lowest annual death toll in 10 years.
Regarding media safety, Egco announced that the task force will be launching a Webinar Series starting March 24 entitled “PTFoMS MOVING 4WARD: Safeguarding Press Freedom During The Pandemic And Elections”. This webinar will focus on Safety Protocols while covering the news during the Covid19 Pandemic and the upcoming 2022 Elections with experts and veteran journalists as resource speakers.
Egco said that much has been accomplished by the present administration through PTFoMS in improving the country’s human rights situation, particularly in protecting the freedoms of expression, opinion and of the press.
Egco pointed out that in 2018, the country was finally removed as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In 2020, the nation was declared as the “biggest mover” by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its annual Global Impunity Index (GII) released last year. The Philippines is also not included in CPJ’s list of “World’s Worst Places to Be a Journalist” or “10 Most Censored Countries.”
“With the unwavering commitment of this government in bringing to justice perpetrators of threats and violence against media workers through a dedicated agency such as the PTFoMS, we can now proudly proclaim to the world that the so-called culture of impunity has finally ended,” Egco added. JIJ