Malacanang on Tuesday lambasted the international organization Reporters Without Borders after President Rodrigo Duterte was included in its list of “press freedom predators”, saying the dishonor was “bereft of merit” and “baseless.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement after the Paris-based media watchdog known by its French acronym RSF included Duterte in the list of world leaders considered as “press freedom predators”.
“Freedom of the press is alive and well in the Philippines. The President has not filed a libel case. The President has not sent a journalist to jail,” Roque said in defending the President.
He said that the shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN was a decision of Congress, while the cases against Rappler were for supposed violations of Securities and Exchange Commission rules.
Roque said that media firms that are critical to Duterte and his administration are not even facing any libel suit–proof that the President values press freedom.
“That’s part and parcel of course of the media group’s advocacy to promote freer press. But there is really no basis to claim that our President is a media predator,” he said.
RSF on Monday said Duterte is among 37 heads of state in the world who “crack down massively on press freedom”.
“Collusion at all levels within the state apparatus” enabled Duterte to wage “total war” against journalists, RSF said.
RSF also said that Duterte has an “arsenal that includes spurious charges of defamation, tax evasion or violation of capital legislation; rescinding broadcast licenses; getting accomplices to buy up media outlets and bring their journalists into line; and using an army of trolls to subject journalists to online harassment.