There appears to be a growing animosity towards journalists in the Philippines, as demonstrated by top political leaders.
The foul-mouth President of the Philippines, on several occasions, has hurled verbal abuse at journalists and media organizations. Similarly, some government offices have restricted some journalists from covering political events and press briefings, subjecting them to many restrictions.
Coverage of Boracay closure required prior accreditation
The Department of Tourism (DOT) required media accreditation limiting the entry of journalists and television crews during the frenzy prior to actual closure of the favourite tourist destination. Only media practitioners identified as ‘friendly’ to the government were issued accreditation.
Prior to the six-month closure, hundreds of police, soldiers and coast guard members were deployed to the island to prepare for “emergency scenarios” that may happen during the shutdown period. Boracay was ordered closed by President Duterte who called it a “cesspool.”
Rappler was off-limits
Rappler reporter Pia Ranada, who usually covers Malacañang Palace, was banned from entering the entire presidential complex without prior clearance from the Presidential Security Group (PSG). Rappler was accused of reporting ‘fake news’ after its coverage of the Philippine Navy’s frigate deal, during which Bong Go, Special Assistant to the President, was alleged to have intervened during the negotiations.
Guidelines on coverage of House of Representatives
Press and Public Affairs Bureau (PPAB) of the House of Representatives formulated new rules for media coverage, which include denial of accreditation or revocation of a House media ID “if the bearer besmirches the reputation” of the House’s members. Reports also say the guidelines prohibit ambush interviews. As of press time, no copy of the guidelines has yet been made available for public access.
Foreign correspondents prohibited from asking questions
Members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) who covered the ASEAN Summit last April 26 and 27 were denied access to one press conference and prohibited from asking questions in another.
On April 26, Malacañang barred FOCAP members from covering a briefing with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. They were eventually granted access on the condition that they do not ask questions.
Correspondents were denied entry to a press briefing with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, which discussed the diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait.
FOCAP said the government’s actions clearly violated Constitutional provisions of freedom of information (FOI). In the same statement, FOCAP referred to the restrictions in media coverage of the Marawi siege and Boracay closure as curtailments of press freedom.
Global threat to democracy
In the United States, President Donald Trump has called the press as “an enemy of the American people.”