PH media now enjoys 5 guaranteed freedoms: Egco

By Saul Pa-a

March 9, 2018, 12:31 pm

MABITAC, Laguna – An official of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) said Thursday the Philippine media have been enjoying the five Constitutional guarantees on media freedom.

These are freedoms of the press, speech, expression and right to peaceful assembly and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said such guaranteed freedoms were not protected in the past.

Egco, together with National Press Club (NPC) president Paul Gutierrez and other PTFoMS officials, presidents and members of the various Calabarzon-based media organizations and press corps gathered in a seminar held at Amazing View Mountain Resort in Little Baguio, Barangay 2040, here.

He said “this government also recognizes that a free press is an absolute necessity in attaining the peace and prosperity we are all aspiring for, and ensures a safe environment for media workers.”

Egco said President Rodrigo Roa Dutete had signed Administrative Order No. 1 (AO1) on Oct. 11, 2016, creating the “Presidential Task Force on Violence Against Media Workers.”

The seminar discussed PTFoMS creation under AO1, its operational guidelines and introduction to PTFoMS Protocols which are sets of specific timelines and action plans designed to institutionalize the best practices in global media security for adoption into our own unique media environment.

“This (PTFoMS) is the first and only Task Force in Asia and possibly, the world, whose mandate is to protect the life, liberty and security of media workers,” Egco said.

Egco said PFToMS' mandate to protect media workers is in accordance with the country’s Constitutions and laws and international statutes that value the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.

The AO1 also calls for a stop to all forms of political violence and abuses of power, whether by agents or elements of the State or of non-State forces against the members of the so-called Fourth Estate.

The media security task force has also committed to establish a government-wide program of action where the whole system of the bureaucracy is involved in the efficient, coherent, and comprehensive resolution of unsolved cases of violence in the form of killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of persons against the members of the press.

Egco said since the PTFoMS creation, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report has downgraded the Philippines, from “most dangerous in the World”, a tag inherited from the past administration, to “most dangerous in Asia”.

The RSF’s World Press Freedom Index also showed that the Philippines jumped from 138 in 2016 to 127 in 2017.

A similar report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 10th Annual Global Impunity Index revealed an improvement from 4th to 5th place.

In January 2018, the International Federation of Journalists also reported that the country placed No. 6 along with Pakistan, but Egco expressed optimism “with all these safety mechanisms in place, there is no reason why we should remain in that list.”

Egco added that while the RSF claim that four journalists died in 2017 was true, not all of them were killed in the line of duty as their deaths were not related to their profession as journalists but to politics or personal grudges while one was a victim of robbery-homicide.

“We reiterate, however, that all these cases-- whether work-related or not-- were solved,” he vowed.

With positive developments taking place, Egco said the PTFoMS’ “failure is not an option” as he presented the task force Vision 2020 Action Plan, which details a program of action through intensified Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) by the media security body with the member-agencies and media observers/resource persons which was started last Jan 24.

He said the action plan is in line with International Media Support’s (IMS) Five Principles for Developing and Implementing a National Safety Response: Strategy, Presence, Collaboration, Influence, and Sustainability.

The PTFoMS Vision 2020 calls for addressing dirty politics mixed with corruption and vulnerable media, and the media task force’s partnerships with UNESCO, AIJC, UNIO, local media groups and other stakeholders to promote the highest ethical standards and professionalism among media workers. (With report from Robert Maico/PNA)