(Improved) ‘State of the Media’ under Duterte: NPC CITES GOVT. FOR COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY, MEDIA SAFETY

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STATEMENT
Reference: Paul M. Gutierrez
July 20, 2017

(Improved) ‘State of the Media’ under Duterte:
NPC CITES GOVT. FOR COMMITMENT TO
TRANSPARENCY, MEDIA SAFETY

The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), the largest and one of the most firmly established organizations of professional mediamen in the country, welcomes with guarded optimism, greater transparency and a safer environment for today’s journalists under the Duterte administration.

While government and media are naturally at loggerheads over certain issues with the NPC not hesitating to throw in its criticisms when needed, the Duterte administration should still be credited for making good on its campaign promise to promote transparency and accountability in government with its signing of the ‘Freedom of Information (FOI) Law’ (Executive Order No. 2) and the promotion of the safety of the working press thru ‘Administrative Order No. 1’ that created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS).

Further giving credit where credit is due, we recognize also the ‘behind the scene’ efforts of PCOO secretary, Martin Andanar, in convincing not only Pres. Duterte but also, the entire Cabinet, to support and promote these two decisions.

In the long run, we believe that these measures would not only help strengthen our democracy and the rule of law but more importantly, help restore our people’s trust in government.

We take note of the fact that despite repeated promises by past administrations to heed the media and our people’s clamor for government to uphold the people’s right to access to information and for substantive actions to protect members of the Fourth Estate since the ‘restoration’ of our democracy some 30 years ago, nothing has been done, really, to address these concerns—until Pres. Duterte steps into office and turn them into reality barely four months into office.

Thus, these early twin decisions by the Duterte administration can also be described in two words: commitment and sincerity.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FOI, PTFoMS

The FOI is envisioned to combine standard FOI and Open Data, where members of the press and the public at large can request for official records by going straight to concerned agencies in the executive branch. It reflects the welcome policy of the state to implement the right of the people to information and to enhance transparency and accountability in the government.

Sec. Andanar, a former broadcast journalist himself, being acclaimed as the ‘FOI champion’ through Memorandum Order No. 10 issued by President Duterte, which designated the PCOO as the ‘lead agency’ in the implementation of EO No. 2 and the FOI program in the entire executive branch is welcome news, him being the natural choice for the job. Thru his sincerity, commitment and unflagging energy, it can be expected that the resistance being shown by some lower-ranking units in the bureaucracy in complying with the FOI, it being a new program to promote and uphold transparency in government, would soon be overcome.

On the other hand, the creation of PTFoMS should be viewed as a testament to the Pres. Duterte’s declaration in his first State Of The Nation (SONA) address that “this government does not condone violence and repression of media.”

Thru the PTFoMS, both government and its media partners are now able to work closely together and act on the first signs of threats against members of the press and other media workers, thereby giving ample protective cover to journalists in distress and saving them from further harm.

Indeed, there has been a marked decrease these days on threats and violence against Filipino journalists as also reflected in the country’s improved ranking in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers).

The report showed an impressive uphill climb of 11 places from 138th in 2016 to 127th this year. This marked improvement, according to RSF data, is the 4th highest among the countries surveyed.

Despite these groundbreaking accomplishments, however, much is still to be done. Slaying the Beast of Impunity that has been the bane of our society for so long now is never, and will never be, an easy task; the challenges ahead must embolden all stakeholders, particularly government, to do much more.

For we can only rest easy when there is far greater transparency in all branches of government and when these debilitating threats and environment of fear that has long-gripped media practitioners nationwide have been totally expunged. ###

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