Philippines: RSF calls on future President to restore press freedom and end impunity for crimes against journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Philippine’s President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who will be inaugurated on 30 June, to break with the policy of harassing the media pursued by his predecessor and supporter, Rodrigo Duterte, and to end impunity for crimes against journalists.
Ferdinand Marcos Junior, the namesake son of the late dictator who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, won the presidential election on 10 May. The 64-year-old former senator was elected for a single six-year term alongside Vice President Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, who gave them his support.
As soon as he came to power in 2016, Duterte launched an open war on “son-of-a-bitch journalists”, in which Rappler website’s founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa was a leading target. In this climate of terror fuelled by constant verbal attacks and judicial harassment, dozens of radio and TV outlets were forced to close and at least 16 journalists were killed with almost total impunity.
“The current press freedom situation in the Philippines is disastrous but the future president has the power to reverse the trend,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on Ferdinand Marcos Jr to differentiate himself from his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, by ensuring that the 1987 constitution, which guarantees press freedom, is respected at all levels of his administration and by ordering an independent investigation into crimes commited against journalists under previous governments.”
Although attacks on the media intensified under Duterte, the Philippines has long been extremely dangerous for journalists. At least 34 were killed in ten years from 2012 to 2021, according to RSF’s tally. Roiled by systemic violence (political crises, separatism, drug trafficking…), the archipelago is the 8th most dangerous country for journalists, on a par with Yemen.
Since the beginning of Rodrigo Duterte's term in office, the Philippines has fallen 22 places and is currently ranked 147th out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index 2022.