By Genalyn Kabiling
In observance today of the World Press Freedom Day, Malacañang called for closer cooperation between the government and media in fighting the spread of false information amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar made the appeal after lauding the “heroism, bravery and service” of the journalists and media workers reporting from the front lines during the public health emergency.
“We join all the journalists and media workers in the Philippines and around the world as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day,” he said in a statement Sunday.
“Let us work together as well, to eradicate biased information, misinformation, disinformation and fake news that continue to damage not only our society, but the trust and the relationship between the government and the people, a relationship that must be maintained in order for our society to function as a whole,” said Andanar, a broadcast journalist before joining the Duterte administration in 2016.
In recent weeks, the government has been battling the reported prevalence of unverified information and other fake news related to the coronavirus on social media. It has warned that spreading false information only sows unnecessary panic and confusion among the people.
Under the Bayanihan law, peddlers of false information about the coronavirus may face up to P1 million in fine and/or two months of imprisonment.
In his statement, Andanar recognized the importance of press freedom but also cited that access to “rightful and truth information” is also crucial. He said “a free and pluralistic press” plays an important role to promote an informed and empowered society.
“Without an open and free press, there will be an intellectual vacuum on public information and government programs and services, and there will be no dialogue on societal issues, public grievances, and government policies,” he said.
As the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, Andanar said press freedom has facilitated the delivery of news and reports to Filipinos. “It has also helped voice out the public’s pulse and serve as an avenue for the government to increase public awareness of its policies and report its activities with complete transparency,” he said.
Andanar also affirmed that the government is committed to uphold press freedom as well as protect media from violence. Among the initiatives he mentioned are freedom of information policy in the executive branch, Presidential Task Force on Media Security, and expanded Sotto law “to protect the life, liberty and security of media workers.”
“As the movement of and access to rightful and truthful information are products of the continuous engagement among the government, the press, and the civil society, the Duterte Administration aims to protect and maintain this co-existence,” he said.
“We will continue to endeavor towards the continued promotion of press rights and freedom,” he added.