May 23, 2022
Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Republic of the Philippines
San Miguel, Manila
Via email: [email protected]
Dear President-elect Marcos:
As you prepare to assume the presidency of the Philippines, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent non-governmental organization advocating for press freedom worldwide, is writing to draw attention and request your leadership in reversing your predecessor’s abusive acts and policies targeting independent media and journalists and restoring the Philippines’ once-proud standing as a regional bastion of press freedom.
In order to undo outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s long campaign of intimidation and harassment of the press, CPJ urges you to give top priority to this urgent task. The legitimacy of your administration should be based on independently reported facts that allow for the kind of true public accountability that is the hallmark of strong democracies. The people of the Philippines deserve no less.
To start with, your administration should end the relentless persecution of journalist and Nobel Peace laureate Maria Ressa, a global beacon of press freedom. CPJ calls on your government to immediately drop all pending charges against Ressa, her colleagues, and the Rappler media group. These cases range from trumped-up tax charges to cyber libel accusations that threaten to shutter Rappler and carry potential prison penalties for those charged.
Prior to the Nobel, Ressa was honored with CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for her courage against the Duterte government’s persistent harassment and threat. As Ressa continues to carry the torch for press freedom globally, journalists worldwide and more than 80 organizations that form the Hold the Line Coalition are watching for Ressa’s fate. Your administration should take a decisive turn toward upholding press freedom by turning the page on your predecessor’s punitive actions and policies and allowing the news group to operate freely without fear of reprisal. That includes allowing access to Rappler reporter Lian Buan, who reports she was shoved and blocked by your security detail on the campaign trail and ignored by your spokesperson when asked questions.
We also strongly call on your government to restore the operating franchise of ABS-CBN, previously your nation’s largest TV news broadcaster, which the government ordered off the air. Duterte repeatedly threatened not to renew ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise agreement before Congress decided against its application. The independent news group continues to broadcast online, but the loss of its operating franchise has decimated its national television audience, forcing the station to significantly downsize operations.
We also urge your government to cease the “red-tagging” of journalists, the wrongful and dangerous labeling of reporters as supporters of the banned communist insurgency. Duterte’s administration made red-tagging de facto government policy and employed the practice to threaten, harass, and jail journalists. Red-tagging is especially dangerous considering the Philippine military’s alleged role in extrajudicial killings and torture of accused communists.
In particular, we call on you to exercise your executive authority to drop the red tagging-related charges pending against journalist Frenchiemae Cumpio, who has been languishing behind bars for over two years on an illegal firearm charge that her colleagues and advocacy groups say was trumped up to silence her Eastern Vista news publication’s reporting on the Philippine military’s operations against communist rebels and alleged associated human rights abuses.
More broadly, we implore your government to prioritize ending the enduring culture of impunity in the killing of Filipino journalists. CPJ’s latest Impunity Index, a quantitative measure of the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of the population, shows the Philippines is persistently among the most dangerous places worldwide to be a journalist.
While we recognize the Duterte administration’s creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a state agency tasked with resolving the cases of murdered reporters, the body has made only marginal progress in bringing the killers of journalists to full justice and at one juncture disingenuously declared an end of impunity in your country. Under your watch, the task force’s mission should be reaffirmed and its work in solving media killings expedited.
As the Philippines’ newly elected leader, you have the mandate to reassert your country’s damaged democratic credentials by forthrightly promoting and protecting press freedom. We urge you to seize this important moment and state clearly from the outset that journalists will be free to report without fear of reprisal, intimidation, or imprisonment during your tenure.
Thank you for your attention.
Jodie Ginsberg, President
Committee to Protect Journalists