Journalism Media

Press Freedom in the Philippines, in the Throes of Suppression?

There is now widespread belief that the Philippine government is suppressing press freedom, as publishing government criticisms is now being criminalized.

The legal basis for actions taken against alleged offenders is the addendum to the broad emergency powers given to incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, as a means to lead the country in battling the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last minute addition gives Duterte and his administration authority to file criminal charges against those spreading “false information” during the ongoing health crisis. If found guilty, punishment is a 2-month jail term plus PhP1-million fine (currently equivalent to about US$20k.)

Criticisms Raising Issues about Government Actions vs. False Information

However, concerns have been raised that national and local enforcers have clouded views in distinguishing posts and broadcasts that air criticisms against the government, from those that publish fake news. Even social media posts that aired opinions, complaints and questions over the distribution of social amelioration funds were being closely scrutinized.

To date, numerous legal actions are being taken against people who allegedly posted “false information” via their social media account. The list includes journalists, campus newspaper editors and even a town mayor.

Even the country’s world-renowned and internationally acclaimed singer, Lea Salonga earned the ire of the administration. In an interview, Ms. Salonga made cautious remarks about the government’s failure to arrest the record-high 6.7 percent inflation problem being experienced by the country.

Yet Senator Enrile, a long-time solon, has in fact suggested a resolution to declare the U.S. based actress-singer a persona non-grata, to prevent her from ever stepping foot in her homeland again.