On World Press Freedom Day, President Rodrigo Duterte, under whose presidency at least 51 cases of intimidation against journalists have been recorded, said the press should be protected from threats for it to do its job.

“[T]he messenger itself, the press, must be protected from all forms of threat and intimidation so that they may fully serve the best interest of our people,” Duterte’s message for the occasion read.

“Let me assure everyone that this administration will remain committed in promoting press freedom as a vital component and indicator of progress anywhere in the world,” Duterte added.

Duterte said his government would “protect” press freedom, saying it would be for the public good and its protection was an “indispensable requirement for a vibrant democracy.”

“Cognizant of the ever-changing communication system these days, may the mass media also uphold fairness and transparency while also making a positive impact on the people’s lives,” he said.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said there were 51 documented cases of attacks on journalists during the Duterte administration. Of these, 30 involved red-tagging and 22 happened amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the NUJP noted.

The Philippines slipped two places in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 138th out of 180 countries.

According to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, at least 19 journalists have been killed under Duterte’s presidency.

Duterte’s allies in Congress also deniedABS-CBN a new broadcast franchise in July 2020, less than a year after the president said he would “see to it” that ABS-CBN would not be granted a new franchise for not airing his TV advertisements during the 2016 election period and its supposed “biased” reporting. John Ezekiel J. Hirro