CMFR logs 75 press freedom violations under Marcos admin

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 3) — A day after the 30th World Press Freedom Day, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on Thursday reported 75 cases of violations against media workers since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office.

From June 30, 2022, to April 30, 2023, these include 40 intimidation, 10 libel and cyberlibel, 7 harassment, 6 barred from coverage and censorship, 5 threats through messages and online, 4 cyberattacks, and 1 physical assault.

The CMFR said 31 of the 40 cases of intimidation include red tagging media members or news organizations and 8 cases of surveillance.

“President Marcos Jr. has been amiable toward the press. And there has been no real action to prevent the kinds of attacks that made the Duterte regime as dark as it could ever be for the media and for democracy,” the CMFR said.

While it exceeds the number of attacks and threats in any one year during former president Rodrigo Duterte’s term in office, the CMFR said attacking journalists and media is no longer the top priority of the current administration.

In a statement released after World Press Freedom Day, the Presidential Communications Office said they condemned all attacks on press freedom and has called for the protection of journalists and media workers worldwide.

“We honor the brave journalists who risk their lives every day to bring us the news and the stories that shape our world,” it added.

The reported cases cover the death of broadcaster Percy Lapid on October 3 last year, and of editorial cartoonist Rey Blanco on September 18, 2022.

State agents were involved in 41 cases as alleged perpetrators, the media group added, with 23 from the national government, 12 from the police, and 6 from local government units.

In a separate post on Wednesday, the National Union of Journalists (NUJP) reported a lower number of press freedom violations at 60.

While there have been victories – such as acquittal of Maria Ressa and Rappler of tax cases – the NUJP said press freedom in the Philippines remain fragile.

The NUJP also reiterated that the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act and SIM Card Registration Act restricts that freedom of an individual from which the freedom of the press comes.

"In the backdrop of all these hangs the threat of the use of the tactics that the Duterte administration used against the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rappler and ABS-CBN that continue to chill our community,” the NUJP said.

“In the backdrop as well are the unresolved murders of our colleagues, with Renato Blanco and Percy Lapid being only the latest of these," it added.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan on Wednesday also denounced the weaponization of laws against the media that it said still persist under Marcos administration.

"The weaponization of laws to attack the hard-won rights to press freedom and free expression must stop," the group said.

Instead of heeding widespread calls to decriminalize libel, the group said state authorities have even strengthened these measures through a “cybercrime” law prescribing harsher punishments for criminal libel and granting authorities massive powers to shut down websites and monitor online information.