Duterte tagged a ‘press freedom predator’ by media watchdog

Photo from rsf.org.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO Duterte has been tagged by a worldwide watchdog as a “press freedom predator.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a gallery on July 5 that includes Duterte among 37 world leaders “who cracked down heavily on press freedom.”

The media watchdog quoted the president who threatened the media in March 2017: “I’m not threatening them but someday their karma will catch up with them.” 

RSF named three media organizations that the president targeted. 

In 2017, Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s most widely circulated daily, was attacked and its journalists were “brought to heel.” RSF recalled how ABS-CBN, the country’s leading broadcast network, was targeted next. The “evercompliant congress” sealed the broadcast giant’s demise in July 2020 by refusing to renew its franchise. RSF also highlighted how Duterte went after the “last bastion of press freedom” in the country, the online news site Rappler, and its CEO, Maria Ressa. According to RSF, she is being hounded by lawsuits filed by Duterte’s cronies, and she might face sentences of up to 100 years in prison.

Duterte is joined by China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed Bin Salman, among others in RSF’s press freedom predator gallery.

The new entrants include the first 2 women “predators” who are both from Asia. They are Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam, who “has proved to be the puppet of Chinese President Xi Jinping,” and Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, whose “predatory exploits include the adoption of a digital security law” that prosecuted dozens of journalists and bloggers, the RSF said.

“There are now 37 leaders from around the world in RSF’s predators of press freedom gallery and no one could say this list is exhaustive,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement. 

“Each of these predators has their own style. Some impose a reign of terror by issuing irrational and paranoid orders. Others adopt a carefully constructed strategy based on draconian laws. A major challenge now is for these predators to pay the highest possible price for their oppressive behavior. We must not let their methods become the new normal,” Deloire added.