Holding the line against Duterte’s attacks

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When sworn in as president in June 2016, Rodrigo Duterte issued this cryptic but grim warning: “Just because you're a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong." Three Philippine journalists were killed in 2019, probably by thugs working for local politicians, who can have reporters silenced with complete impunity. Meanwhile, after a ten-year wait, leading members of the Ampatuan political clan were finally convicted in December 2019 of carrying out the biggest ever massacre of journalists – on the island of Mindanao in 2009. 

The government, for its part, has developed several ways to pressure journalists who dare to be overly critical of the summary methods adopted by “Punisher” Duterte and his “war on drugs.” After targeting the Daily Philippines Inquirer, the hot-headed president and his staff waged a grotesque judicial harassment campaign against the news website Rappler and its editor, Maria Ressa. The leading TV network, ABS-CBN, has also been the target of threats and intimidation by government agencies and institutions that support Duterte. The persecution has been accompanied by online harassment campaigns waged by pro-Duterte troll armies, which also launched cyber-attacks on alternative news websites and the site of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, in order to block them. In response to all these attacks, the Philippine independent media have rallied around the call to “Hold the line.”

in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index



134 in 2019

Global score


43.91 in 2019


  • 0
    journalists killed in 2021
  • 0
    citizens journalists killed in 2021
  • 0
    media assistants killed in 2021
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