Don’t look at Ressa: Guevarra questions accuracy of foreign group’s ‘oppressive’ tag on PH media situation
MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday questioned the conclusions of a group of visiting foreign journalists on press freedom in the country.
“Contrary to the opinion of the visiting foreign journalists, I believe that the Philippine press is the freest in the region. Anyone can criticize or say anything against the government without fear of retaliation,” Guevarra said, as he challenged the basis for the report by representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) from the US and Alliance for Journalists Freedom (AJF) from Australia showing “increasing levels of intimidation” against Filipino journalists and “shrinking space for the free press in the country.”
The group said the cases against online news site Rappler and its chief editor, Maria Ressa, were a form of “formal and informal pressure on journalists… that appear to be politically motivated” and which “created a sense of fear throughout the media industry, leading to self-censorship.”
“Maria Ressa’s case is not reflective of the overall situation. Her cases arose from a violation of our Securities Code, which led to other cases such as tax evasion and anti-dummy charges. Her cyber libel case was initiated by a private individual, not by the government,” Guevarra pointed out.
Officials from the CPJ visited the country this week to check what it described as the “increasing levels of intimidation and a shrinking space for the free press in the country.”
Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) executive director and Undersecretary Jose Joel Sy Egco earlier discussed with officials of CPJ and UNESCO accomplishments made by the task force in less than three years after its creation.
In the meeting, CPJ Asia program coordinator Dr. Steven Butler, CPJ board chair Kathleen Carroll, and UNESCO chair in Journalism and Communication of the University of Queensland, Australia Prof. Peter Greste vowed to keep in touch with the PTFoMS for developments in Philippine journalism. (PNA)