Gov't exec calls RSF’s report on PH media 'unfortunate'

By Jelly Musico

April 27, 2018, 8:48 pm

MANILA -- Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) chief, Undersecretary Joel Egco, on Friday described as “unfortunate” a media watchdog’s report on the Philippines’ press freedom.

The Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) has just released its 2018 World Press Freedom Index where it claimed the Philippines slipped to 133rd from 127th out of the 180 countries on the list.

“It is unfortunate that the drop in the ranking of the Philippines in the World Press Freedom Index comes at a time when concrete steps are being taken by our government to ensure that media workers in the country are given the freedom to exercise their rights, as well as the protection concomitant with the exercise of these rights,” Egco said in a press statement.

He said the country’s new ranking remains an improvement from 138th prior to the entry of the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte but still the report has “a demoralizing effect on the efforts of all stakeholders to eradicate all forms of media violence in the country.”

“We strongly take exception to the observations of RSF attributing the drop to alleged countless examples of Philippine government harassment of media that voice any kind of criticism of Duterte’s 'war on drugs’ and other exaggerated statements that are negated by facts on record, testimonies from victims and their families, as well as voluminous documents in the possession of the Task Force,” Egco said.

He said Duterte has in fact opted to dedicate his first Administrative Order to the creation of the PTFoMS when he assumed office in 2016 to make sure that all unresolved media killings and other related cases in the country would be resolved and the victims and family members would be given legal assistance.

“This Task Force is no spineless creation that merely awaits orders from its superiors,” he said.

Egco said the PTFoMS has sent its Special Agents to the provinces to investigate and/or initiate reinvestigation of cases of media workers’ killings last month.

“The mission resulted in the discovery of five more convictions in addition to three that had been previously reported, bringing to eight the total number of convictions in cases of media worker killings all obtained within the years 2012 to 2016. This is a very welcome development that has never been reported, until we came in,” he said.

The PTFoMS has so far conducted two seminars to orient the law enforcers, prosecutors, local officials, media and other stakeholders in the protection of media workers.

He said PTFoMS intends to reach out and open its doors to more agencies as part of its continuing efforts to build and strengthen partnerships with international organizations in the global campaign to protect media workers against violence.

“Thus, we are encouraging the RSF and other relevant international organizations to see how we have helped distressed media workers as their partners in the exercise of their freedom of expression and the press. This shows our strong resolve to genuinely address the issue of violence against members of the media, guided by our firm principle that 'failure is NOT an option',” Egco said. (PNA)