Duterte named as one of 37 press freedom predators

Duterte in RSF’s list of press freedom predators in 2021
According to Paris-based media watchdog, Duterte has used several weapons to wage “total war” against independent media.


MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is named as one of the 37 press freedom predators by international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

On July 2, the RSF published a gallery of 37 heads of state who have led relentless crackdowns on the media. The RSF said Duterte is a “predator” since he took office in June 2016.

According to Paris-based media watchdog, Duterte has used several weapons to wage “total war” against independent media.

After President Duterte was elected in 2016, journalists found themselves at the receiving end of Duterte’s expletives. He publicly cursed and attacked the Philippine Daily Inquirer as well as ABS-CBN, calling them “rude” for reporting about his “war on drugs.”

RSF also pointed out how Duterte’s allies has been targeting Rappler and its CEO Maria Ressa by using different types of lawsuits, from tax evasion to defamation, in an effort to silence the outfit.

The latest target of his crackdown was the country’s largest broadcasting company, ABS-CBN. It’s been almost a year since the Congress denied ABS-CBN’s appeal to renew its franchise; the station has been off-air since then.

Killings, attacks on the alternative media

Apart from the attacks mentioned by the RSF, the National Union of Journalists (NUJP) documented other forms of attack such as killings, attempted slay, threats and intimidation, including red tagging.

Nineteen journalists have been killed since Duterte assumed office.

Recently, websites of alternative media outfits have been subjected to another series of cyberattacks. Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation traced the attacks to the Department of Science and Technology and to the intelligence unit of the Philippine Army.

The Philippines also slipped two places in the RSF World Press Freedom Index for 2021.

Other ‘predators’

Also included in the RSF’s list are Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam and Myanmar’s General Min Aung Hlaing.

Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative region since 2017, openly supported Chinese President Xi Jinping’s predatory policies toward the media, which resulted in the closure of Hong Kong’s independent newspaper Apple Daily on June 24, as well as the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai.

Min Aung Hlaing, meanwhile, has implemented a rapidly expanding crackdown on Myanmar’s independent media. After the military took power in February 2021, Min Aung Hlaing has been arresting journalists by truck-load, torturing and even going as far as locking them in dog cages.

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said that the list might not be exhaustive, since each of the predators had their own methods of suppressing press freedom. The fact that they should pay the price for their oppressive behavior remains, however.

“We must not let their methods become the new normal,” Deloire said. (JJE, RVO / (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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