The Palace on Friday downplayed the latest Southeast Asia Media Freedom Report saying the Philippines is among the worst countries for journalists in the region.
And a report published by the International Federation of Journalists says the Philippines is among seven Southeast Asian countries viewed as the worst places for journalists to work in because of censorship and the threats to their safety.
But Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed that only “one or two” killings of media workers were related to their profession.
“The worst? Well, for one, the deaths of the journalists in this country appear not to be connected with their job,” Panelo told reporters on Friday.
“From what I gather from those who have been killed, it was related to their personal lives. Nothing to do with journalism. There are one or two cases, but not as a rule.”
On the media impunity scale, the IFJ gave the Philippines a rank of 7.7 out of 10, with 10 being the worst. They even ranked the country’s justice system a 7.5 out of 10.
The other countries ranked in the impunity scale included Cambodia (6.1), Indonesia (7.4), Malaysia (6.3), Myanmar (7.5), Thailand (N/A) and Timor Leste (4.1).
Cyber attacks, poor wages, censorship and government attacks on the workplace are some of the factors deemed as key threats to journalists’ safety, the IFJ said.
Despite Panelo’s statement, multiple reports identified more than two media killings in the country as being work-related.
The IFJ said 12 journalists had been killed in relation to their work since the beginning of President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency.
“There are no signs of any government willingness to stop the targeting of journalists and media organizations who believe this official apathy, or even open hostility,” IFJ said in its report.
“[It] has fueled a culture of impunity which has emboldened those seeking to silence the press.”
But Panelo again cited the case of Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa who has been charged with tax evasion.
“They have been saying that Ressa was charged, but that has nothing to do with freedom of expression. If you violate a law, you cannot be immune from prosecution. She is given due process and she even posted bail,” Panelo said.
Still, the IFJ has labeled the Philippines as the “deadliest peacetime country for journalists,” with a total of 185 media practitioners killed since the People Power Revolution in 1986.
The IFJ recorded 85 cases of assault on the media from June 2016 to May 2018, which included cases of murder, death threats, online harassment, police surveillance and the revocation of operating licenses.