PTFoMS STATEMENT – In observance of World Press Freedom Day, Filipino journalists and media professionals are hailed as heroes in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,
As the whole world wages war against an invisible enemy, Filipinos have come to realize the importance of the role that journalists and media workers play in this time of crisis.
Compelled by their desire to serve their fellowmen, Filipino journalists have braved the frontlines and risked their lives to showcase to the world the Filipino’s brand of truth-telling. In recognition of their importance, media workers were specifically exempted by the government from the Enhanced Community Quarantine which has been in effect for almost two months now.
Just like the work being done by Filipino health workers in saving lives against this dreaded disease, the media has been indispensable in the fight by bringing truthful information to millions of Filipinos regarding the virus, including ways to protect oneself pursuant to the guidelines and advisories issued by the government. In this regard, the government has found an ally in the fight against the deadly virus.
Indeed, the Philippine media has become united with the government in the war against Covid19 . In the spirit of “bayanihan”, media practitioners even took the time to help their comrades through various relief operations conducted nationwide for the benefit of media workers and their families, made possible through the cooperation of the National Press Club and other media organizations with the government.
Much have been done by the present administration to ensure every Filipinos’ right to freedom of expression, of opinion and of the press. The government firmly believes that a free press and media that provide accurate, fair and relevant information to the Filipino people is vital to our democracy, especially during this time of crisis.
From the very beginning, President Rodrigo Duterte has made a commitment to protect these freedoms. Duterte once famously said: “I may not agree with your statement but I will defend your right to say it.”
Truth to tell, President Duterte transformed his words into action by creating the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) through his very first Administrative Order (AO No. 1) in order to protect the welfare of Filipino journalists and media workers. Upon assumption to office in 2016, President Duterte has declared as a matter of national policy to identify and prevent any form of threat, violence or abuse of authority against the so-called Fourth Estate.
Unique in the world, PTFoMS has established a government-wide program to ensure a safe environment for all media workers.
In commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, PTFoMS Co-Chair and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin M. Andanar stated that “The government extends its utmost gratitude to our brave men and women of the Philippine media who have dedicated their lives in the service of the Filipino people against the pandemic. You truly are heroes in the war against Covid19.”
For his part, PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Jose Joel M. Sy Egco said that the government is serious in upholding press freedom by ensuring the security of media practitioners.
Citing the successful prosecution and conviction of several prominent government officials and police officers who were complicit in the infamous Maguindanao Massacre, Egco said that “Nothing, not even a pandemic can stop the administration from fulfilling its mandate in protecting the lives, liberty and security of media workers. No amount of destructive narrative against President Duterete and the government can deny the fact that we have proven effective in addressing threats against the media. We honor the media as among the frontliners but we take cognizance of their vulnerabilities such as lack of hazard pay and other amelioration.”
Andanar and Egco are both veteran journalists.
Egco also said that through the continuing efforts of the task force, the government has identified and suppressed most threats against Filipino journalists and media professionals. According to Egco, press freedom has been strengthened when President Duterte assumed office in 2016. This is the reason why since 2018, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has already excluded the Philippines from the list of “Most Dangerous Countries in the World for Journalists”.
In addition, Egco said that the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has noted in its database that no journalist in the Philippines has remained in prison. This is largely due to the government’s commitment to respect the sacred right of every individual to due process of law. A former government prosecutor, President Duterte usually reminds the public to “Let the law take its course”.
As a fitting tribute to all Filipino media workers, Egco added that PTFoMS is actively pushing for the passage of House Bill 2476 (HB 2476), otherwise known as the “Media Workers’ Welfare Act” (MWWA), a bill aimed at recognizing the invaluable contribution of media workers to society.
Introduced by Representative Rowena Nina O. Taduran, the bill seeks to provide better wages, benefits and conditions of work to all Filipino journalists and other media professionals. President Duterte has already endorsed it as a priority bill.
The government through PTFoMS will continue to be relentless and proactive in its drive to protect the lives and liberty of Filipino media worker and to ensure their economic well-being and security, Egco said.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
To commemorate the occasion, the “World Press Freedom Conference” has been organized by the UN as a venue to discuss emerging challenges to press freedom. This year’s theme is “Journalism without fear or favour”. The conference was slated to be held in The Netherlands last April but just like most events in the world, it has been postponed to October 18 to 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak. ###