MALACAÑANG has maintained its stance that press freedom is alive and well in the Philippines.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday, October 12, urged journalists to respect its view on the matter, which is aligned with National Artist F. Sionil Jose’s opinion.
“The Philippines is a democratic society and every view, regardless of affiliation, must be accorded with respect,” he said in a statement.
“Having said this, we regard F. Sionil Jose’s opinion as the better view of the state of press freedom in the country,” he added.
Roque’s statement came after the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) pointed out that the Philippines has been “under siege” for the last five years.
“Attorney Harry Roque, the Philippine press has been under siege under your principal for the last five years, and if you refuse to listen to the journalists who you used to represent, just ask your former colleagues in the human rights community,” the NUJP said.
“As someone who once stood before the Supreme Court bench and defended the freedom of the press against the Cybercrime Prevention Act, you should know that censorship comes in many forms,” it added. “If you refuse to listen to the journalists who you used to represent, just ask your former colleagues in the human rights community.”
On Monday, Oct. 11, Roque congratulated Rappler co-founder and veteran journalist Maria Ressa for becoming the first Filipino to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, he also insisted that her victory was “not a slap” on the face of the government, adding that “no one has ever been censored in the Philippines.”
“Perhaps we should quote F. Sionil Jose because it does not help if this comes from Malacañang. So this comes from a National Artist: ‘I have criticized Duterte but not on press freedom. The Philippine press is alive and well not because of Maria Ressa. No writer is in jail. There is no censorship. Duterte hasn’t closed a single newspaper or radio station. The closure of ABS-CBN was made by Congress which did not renew the ABS-CBN franchise,’” he said.
“Sure, he has influenced Congress but the real issue against ABS-CBN, as I have pointed out, is not press freedom but money, politics, power and its abuse by the Lopezes who own the TV network. Sure, journalists have been killed in the Duterte regime but just as it were in the past administrations; but those killings cannot be laid at Duterte’s door,’” he continued.
To conclude, Roque said: “Let’s say Malacañang agrees with our national artist.”
Last week, Ressa won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov for safeguarding the freedom of expression.
According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ressa “uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in the Philippines.”