World Press Freedom Day has always been the occasion for responsible journalists to re-examine the state of one of the fundamental needs of ethical practice. This year as in 2018, May 3rd was not so much an occasion for celebration as for alarm. As in many other parts of the world, the independent press is under siege from a government that has made it its life work to harass, restrict, threaten and silence it, and to even arrest practitioners for daring to report the truth.
World Press Freedom Day will be marked this year by journalists’ and media advocacy groups with trepidation in the context of the continuing attacks on press freedom by a government that obviously fears its power to expose official wrongdoing.
Why the seeming change in the Duterte regime’s response to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea? Is it because it fears that mass opposition to its refusal to do anything to stop Chinese bullying could affect the chances of its candidates at both the national and local levels on May 13?
Why has every Philippine regime taken the press and journalists to task, tried to control them, and even arrest and kill practitioners? It’s a question Filipinos should be asking in the context of the laughably fact-challenged attempts of the Duterte regime to paint journalists as part of a grand conspiracy to remove President Rodrigo Duterte from power.
The public opinion surveys of the past year or so have confirmed that most Filipinos distrust China while wholeheartedly favoring the United States. Over a majority of the population are skeptical of the former’s intentions, and would like the Philippine government to do something about its occupation of the West Philippine Sea.