PH Ranking Drops Six Places in 2018 RSF Press Freedom Report

Screengrab from RSF Website.

THE PARIS-BASED Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF-Reporters Without Borders) has released its 2018 World Press Freedom Index report, which noted “growing animosity towards the media” globally. The Philippines ranked 133rd, dropping six places from its ranking of 127th in 2017 (“RSF Index 2018: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies“).

Annually published since 2002, the Index measures the degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries through a two-fold procedure. RSF conducts a qualitative analysis of the responses of experts to a questionnaire that evaluates 1) pluralism, 2) media independence, 3) media environment and self-censorship, 4) legislative framework, 5) transparency and 6) the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. RSF also analyzes quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the evaluation period.

In the Philippines, RSF noted President Duterte’s attacks on the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, and the revocation of Rappler’s license to operate. RSF said, “There have been countless examples of Philippine government harassment of media that voice any kind of criticism of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs.’ Here again, verbal violence and physical violence are closely linked. With four journalists murdered in connection with their work in 2017, the Philippines is one of the (Asian) continent’s deadliest countries.”

RSF noted the same hostility to press freedom in other Asian countries. Press freedom in other Southeast Asian countries, some of them democracies, is under threat from China’s model of media control, which it said has influenced Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” RSF reported.

Last April 26, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing that despite the drop in rankings, it was “still an improvement from where we were at 138th with the entry of the Duterte administration.” He denied that the president’s tirades against the media are attacks on press freedom and contributed to the country’s lower ranking in the RSF Report.

Kung ang Presidente nagagalit sa media, eh kasi kasagutan iyon doon sa mga tingin niyang hindi katotohanan ang sinusulat sa kaniya (If the president gets mad at the media, it is because of those reports about him that he considers inaccurate). So that’s within the free marketplace of ideas. Hindi naman po pupuwede gagawing punching bag ang Presidente, hindi siya sasagot. ‘Pag ginawa ninyo siyang punching bag, sasagot iyong Presidente natin (If you treat the president as a punching bag, naturally he will respond )!” Roque said.

Roque added that  Duterte has not imprisoned any journalist or sued anyone for libel. He did not mention Duterte’s order to the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate online news site  Rappler and that body’s rescinding its registration, or the threat to withdraw the franchise of TV network ABS-CBN, among others.