By Roy Mabasa
The Philippines ranked 136th in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index released by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in time for the observance of the World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Published annually, the World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists determined by pooling the responses from experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF.
In the latest index, the Philippines scored 43.47 points compared to last year’s 43.91, putting it two-notches lower from the previous year. Thus, its current global score is translated into -0.37.
The country’s poor showing in the World Press Freedom index was attributed to the government’s efforts to pressure and harass journalists overly critical of the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” campaign that resulted to the deaths of more than 5,000 individuals since 2016.
According to the RSF, the persecution 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 Journalist of the Philippines.”
“In response to all these attacks, the Philippine independent media have rallied behind the call to ‘Hold the line,” it added.
The RSF noted that in 2019, three Filipino journalists were killed “probably by thugs working for local politicians, who can have reporters silenced with complete impunity.”
Norway tops the press freedom barometer with global score 7.84, followed by Finland (7.93), Denmark (8.13), Sweden (9.25), Netherlands (9.96), Jamaica (10.51), Costa Rica (10.53), Switzerland (10.62), New Zealand (10.69), and Portugal (11.83).
Meanwhile, United States Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim paid tribute to the important role being played by journalists around the world, including in the Philippines even in the middle of a pandemic.
“This World Press Freedom Day, I’d like to acknowledge the important work of journalists around the world, including here in the Philippines, who continue to report despite the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. A free press is a cornerstone of democracy and critical for public health,” Kim said in a tweet.