PH slips again in World Press Freedom Index

Reporters Without Borders found that journalism “is completely or partially blocked” in 132 out of 180 countries – a worrying development amid the coronavirus pandemic

The Philippines fell two more places, now ranking 138th out of 180 nations, in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index for 2021.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the Philippines has fallen in the index, which ranks 180 countries by the level of freedom granted to journalists in a particular location.

RSF cited President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration’s continued attacks on the media, including “the preposterous legal harassment campaign” against Rappler and its CEO Maria Ressa, and the government-backed closure of the country’s largest broadcaster, ABS-CBN.

In addition to this, RSF also cited online harassment and red-labeling – labeling as communists or terrorists – of journalists and perceived enemies of the Duterte administration.

“Persecution of the media has been accompanied by online harassment campaigns orchestrated by armies of pro-Duterte trolls, who have also launched cyberattacks on alternative news sites and the site of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines , in order to block them. The “red marking” also came back into force in 2020,” RSF said.

Globally, RSF reported that journalism “is completely or partially blocked” in 132 countries – a worrying development amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now, more than ever, people need to be able to trust journalism and have access to accurate information, which acts like a vaccine. It inoculates citizens against the viral misinformation of lies and conspiracy theories, and in doing so, it strengthens the immune system of democratic societies, making them more stable and resilient,” said Anna Nelson, Executive Director of RSF USA.

Regional situation

Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific region, RSF found that at least 10 countries have used the pandemic to stifle dissent and spread misinformation.

RSF said China (177th) is “the world’s undisputed specialist” in censorship and has “taken advantage” of the pandemic to further tighten its control over online information.

Other countries include Thailand (137th), the Philippines, Indonesia (113th) and Cambodia (144th), all of which have implemented laws that criminalize any criticism of the government and the publication of alleged false information. (READ: As PH and Cambodia fight for press freedom, China strengthens its influence)

Malaysia fell 18 places to 119th – the biggest drop of any country in the index – due to its passing of an anti-fake news decree that allows authorities to impose their own version of the truth. This is similar to that of Singapore (160and), which previously passed a law allowing the government to “correct” any information it deemed false and prosecute those responsible.

In Myanmar (140th), RSF said the civilian government of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi used the fight against COVID-19 disinformation to block 221 websites, including news sites, in April 2020 The situation has worsened considerably since the February military coup. 2021.

In Pakistan (145th), the military also controls journalists, with the powerful Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) continuing to harass, intimidate, kidnap and torture critics living in the country and abroad.

In India (142nd), while pro-government media broadcast propaganda, journalists who criticize the government are labeled as “anti-state”, “anti-national” and even “pro-terrorist” – as in the Philippines.

RSF said independent journalism is also severely repressed in Bangladesh (152nd), Sri Lanka (127th) and Nepal (106th), while a moderate increase in repression has been recorded in Papua New Guinea (47th). ), Fiji (55th) and Tonga. (46th).

In Australia (25th), RSF said it was Facebook that “introduced the censorship bug” after the tech company decided to ban Australian media from posting content on their Facebook pages due to a disagreement over a law requiring tech companies to pay news companies.

Meanwhile, RSF reported that New Zealand (8th), Australia (25th), South Korea (42nd) and Taiwan (43rd) – the regional models of press freedom – generally allowed journalists to do their job freely. (READ: What the world can learn from the ‘Taiwan model’ on disinformation) –

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