(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – As the leading agency in safeguarding press freedom, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) through its Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel M. Sy Egco, thanked President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for signing the much-awaited law declaring August 30 as the country’s "National Press Freedom Day".

“All our hard work and efforts have paid off. As a veteran journalist myself, I have worked together with our media friends such as the Katipunan ng mga Alagad ni Marcelo H. Del Pilar (KAMPI) for the enactment of a law that will promote press freedom and at the same time highlight our identity as a nation of freedom-loving Filipinos that can be traced back even during colonial times,” Egco said in a press statement.

“This is proof positive of President Duterte’s steadfast and unwavering commitment to protect press freedom in the Philippines, not through words but concrete action. August 30 is indeed a very special day in the Philippines as this is the birth date of one of our national heroes and considered as the father of Philippine Journalism, Marcelo H. del Pilar, my personal hero, aka Plaridel,” he added.

“Our President is indeed a man of action. While other presidents in the past were satisfied in simply mouthing their commitment to freedom of the press, it is only President Duterte who has made significant progress towards this end with the signing of various measures to safeguard this sacred right, such as Administrative Order No. 1 in 2016 creating the PTFoMS under the Office of the President with a devoted mandate to protect media workers, the very first in the world; Executive Order No. 2 which operationalizes in the Executive Branch the people’s constitutional right to information by allowing full public disclosure and transparency in the public service; Republic Act No. 11458 which expanded the scope of the Philippine Shield law that now includes internet-based mass media; and of course, Republic Act 11699, declaring August 30 as the National Press Freedom Day,” Egco pointed out.

Egco said that the government is also pushing for the passage of the proposed Media Workers Welfare Act (MWWA), a bill that seeks to uplift the economic welfare of media practitioners. The bill grants media workers with hazard pay, living wage, employment security, safety equipment, plus additional insurance and hospitalization benefits.

PTFoMS actively participated in crafting the bill and lobbying for its passage in Congress.

“These are the reasons why in the recent 2021-2022 'World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report' released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it highlighted the Philippines as among a very few countries in the world that have undertaken “good practices and positive measures” in the safety of journalists” he added.

The UNESCO report cited the establishment by the Duterte Administration of “a special task force for the safety of journalists,” now being emulated in other parts of the world.

Egco said, “It is my sincere hope that the next president, at the very least, will continue these concrete steps undertaken by President Duterte to promote press freedom in the country as these are some of his very important legacies to the Filipino people,” adding that the signing is very timely as the world will mark World Press Freedom Day in the coming week.

It should be recalled that May 3 has been declared by UNESCO as World Press Freedom Day in order 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.

On the other hand, the National Press Freedom Day law is expected to enhance the Filipinos’ awareness of the important role of responsible journalism in nation-building and the prevention of all forms of violence against journalists and other media practitioners.

To ensure the meaningful observance and celebration of the National Press Freedom Day, the law mandates that all government agencies including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, government-owned and controlled corporations, local government units, as well as the private sector shall afford the sufficient time and opportunity for the people to engage and participate in any related activity to be conducted in the premises of their respective offices or establishments

Moreover, the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, in consultation with the Office of the President, government and private media organizations, is mandated to lead public and private schools in organizing activities to raise awareness on press freedom. (PR)