MANILA, Philippines — For the third year in a row, the Philippines slid down the World Press Freedom Index of Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF).
This time, the Philippines slipped two notches to the 136th place out of 180 countries with a score of 46.64, indicating the “difficult situation” of press freedom in the country.
Compared to other Southeast Asian nations, the Philippines fared better than Thailand (137th), Myanmar (140th), Cambodia (144th), Brunei (154th), Singapore (160th), Laos (172nd) and Vietnam (175th).
Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Malaysia all ranked higher than the Philippines in the listing, placing at 71st, 113th and 119th, respectively.
The index rates press freedom in 180 countries on the basis of pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
Norway topped the list for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Finland. Eritrea placed at the bottom of the index, after North Korea.
Attacks traced back to Duterte
In its report on the Philippines, the media watchdog traced back attacks on the press — from the “grotesque judicial harassment” against Rappler and its CEO Maria Ressa to the shutdown of ABS-CBN at the hands of an administration-allied House of Representatives — to President Rodrigo Duterte.
RSF called the charges against Rappler and Ressa “far-fetched,” while it pointed out how millions of Filipinos were deprived of essential information during the pandemic.
It also noted incidents of pro-Duterte troll armies attacking and harassing journalists online, cyber-attacks on alternative news websites and the site of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and red-tagging.
RSF said journalism is totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others, representing 73% of all the countries it evaluated as states used the coronavirus pandemic to restrain journalists’ access to information.
“Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors.”
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