JERAA calls for action after Duterte’s further attacks on press freedom

By Alex Wake
JERAA President


The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia is calling on the Australia government to make strong diplomatic representations to the Philippine President to reinstate ABS-CBN’s operating license and make an ongoing commitment to press freedom, particularly now at the height of the CoVID-19 pandemic.

JERAA President Alex Wake said: “This is an outrage. It is another example of Duterte’s continuing war on press freedom.”

Rappler editor Maria Ressa, who has received death threats over coverage of President Duterte, with JERAA President Alex Wake

The Duterte Administration has closed ABS-CBN, a private enterprise whose network reaches internationally, providing a service to Filipinos around the world.

This is the third media organisation that has been ‘interfered’ with in the four years since Duterte was sworn in as President and stated: “Just because you’re a journalist, you’re not exempt from assassination if you are a son of a bitch.”

His actions are having a chilling effect on Philippine media freedom, encouraging self-censorship by reporters and media outlets fearful of government reprisals for critical reporting at a time when the media’s role in reporting the pandemic is vital.

Even before this closure the Philippines had dropped two further places on the Press Freedom Index, now sitting at 136 (Australia is situated at number 26 by comparison).

By way of background:

President Duterte has labelled broadcaster ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer as “sons of whores”, and warned of repercussions over their criticism of him.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer had been one of the most vocal critics of the administration and its former owners, despite being one of the wealthy scions in the country, did not interfere in the editorial content.

The Duterte administration has also conducted a judicial harassment campaign against the editor, Maria Ressa, and her online news outlet Rappler, one of the country’s most prominent independent news outlets.

Rappler angered Duterte with its criticism of him and by publishing a transcript of a call with Donald Trump, during which the US President praised Duterte’s murderous “drug war” and invited him to the White House.

Ressa and her staff have received threats of death, sexual assault and more.

The persecution of Philippine journalists has been accompanied by online harassment campaigns waged by pro-Duterte troll armies, which also launched cyber-attacks on alternative news websites and the site of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.


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