MANILA – In observance of World Press Freedom Day, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) went all out of its mandate to protect media workers by meeting with local journalists in several key regions all over the country to discuss ways and means to promote media safety.

Undersecretary Joel M. Sy Egco, Executive Director of PTFoMS, said the task force held several and sometimes simultaneous consultative meetings with local journalists in various regions in the past week for the promotion of the safety and security of media workers, in collaboration with the regional offices of the Philippine National Police (PNP),

“Now, you have a direct line to the Office of the President,” Egco told local reporters and broadcasters in SOCCSKSARGEN (Region 12), “whatever your worries or concerns are in your quest to tell our countrymen the truth, you have the PTFoMS to rely on 24/7.”

“Never in the history of the Philippines that an administration given so much emphasis to the welfare of journalists. Despite what critics say, it is only through President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that media workers now have a dedicated agency to rely on to air all your grievances,” Egco said during a meeting held at the PNP Regional Office (PRO) 12 headquarters in General Santos City.

With the help of the PNP, one of the member agencies comprising the task force, Egco assured local journalists that the PTFoMS has the means to protect any journalist who has been unduly harassed or threatened, especially now with the designation of all PNP’s Public Information Officers (PIOs) as PTFoMS’ Media Security Vanguards.

Culminating the week-long event is the signing into law by President Duterte declaring August 30 as National Press Freedom (NPF) Day in honor of National Hero Marcelo H. del Pilar, the father of Philippine Journalism.

Egco said this historic, landmark measure is one of the Philippines’ biggest contributions to the international community in the promotion of media freedom and safety, along with the creation of the PTFoMS.

The law seeks to raise the consciousness of Filipinos on the importance of the press, their rights and social responsibilities, and the elimination of all forms of violence against the press.

Egco also personally held a dialogue with the local media in the Davao Region (Region 11). During the meetings, he called on all journalists to abide by the Journalist’s Code of Ethics as he highlighted certain practices that endanger media safety.

Meanwhile, in Caraga (Region 13), lawyer Perry Solis, Chief of Staff of the PTFoMS, personally met with local journalists at the PNP Regional Office (PRO) 13 in Butuan City and assured them of the continued support of the government through the task force.

Prior to that, Solis, along with officers and special agents of the PTFoMS, met with the local media in the Bicol Region in a meeting organized by the PNP Regional Office (PRO) 5 in Legaspi City.

PTFoMS officials and investigators led by Head Investigator Rechie Duldulao also personally met with local journalists from Region 7 (Central Visayas). The team also held consultative meetings with the PNP and journalists from National Capital Region, Calabarzon (Region 4-A) and Central Luzon (Region 3).

The Presidential Task Force also conducted case conferences and updates on media killings with the regional officials and investigators of the PNP and thereafter met with several families of victims of media violence.

The official visits are part of the proactive measures undertaken by PTFoMS to safeguard press freedom in the country.

Egco emphasized to the attendees the significance of investigating AO1 cases. “The international community is always watching us when it comes to media killings. With PTFoMS and PNP's close collaboration on AO1 cases, we can put context on these incidents especially since most killings are not work-related,” he said, adding that with PNP’s relentless efforts in investigating these incidents, the Task Force will succeed in bringing to justice all perpetrators of media violence.

Also present during the official visits were PTFoMS officers, namely, Rodante Santos II, Aristoteles Estrella, John Aquino, Juliet Solis, Jeffrey Sy Egco, and Raymond Faustino, along with special agents from the task force.

The PTFoMS was created by Duterte in 2016 as a task force directly under his office in order to combat the perceived impunity in killings of journalists that transpired during past administrations, a first in the world.

The United Nations proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day through the efforts of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 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

For this year, UNESCO marks the event with the theme “Journalism under Digital Siege”, the digital era’s impact on freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, access to information and privacy.

In the recent 2021-2022 “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report” released by 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.

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