THE recently released 2018 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiéres, RSF) has ranked the Philippines 133 out of 180 countries on the list, citing a “growing animosity” towards journalists in the country.

But Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. downplayed the report, saying that the media watchdog also expressed alarm over the developments in the United States, China, and Russia—not just the Philippines

“Hindi lang po Pilipinas ang sinabihan nila; ganundin ang sinabi nila sa Amerika, kay [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump (It’s not just the Philippines; they said the same about America, about President Trump),” Roque said.

“So hindi lang po iyan (It’s not only) directed to the Philippines, directed also to the U.S. and in any case, it’s a private organization,” he added.

In its report released Wednesday, April 25, RSF tagged the Philippines as “one of the continent’s deadliest countries.”

RSF said the “growing animosity” towards journalists in Philippines is “openly encouraged” by political leaders, noting that President Rodrigo Duterte himself “not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they ‘are not exempt from assassination.’”

“There have been countless examples of Philippine government harassment of media that voice any kind of criticism of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs.’ Here, again, verbal violence and physical violence are closely linked,” the report said.

It also noted that the “line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving.”

Malacañang, however, maintained that the Duterte administration continues to address the threats of press freedom in the country, including the reported killing of journalists.

Roque cited the establishment of the Task Force on Media Security, which monitors cases of media violence and  provides legal assistance to the victims and their family members.

“Earlier this month, its special agents went to the provinces to investigate and/or initiate reinvestigation of cases of media workers’ killings. The mission resulted in discovery of five more convictions in addition to three that had been previously reported, bringing up to eight the total number of convictions from 2012 to 2016,” Roque said.

“This shows our very strong resolve to genuinely and concretely address violence against members of the media and/or journalism profession,” he added.

The World Press Freedom Index, which is published annually by RSF, “measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries, including the level of pluralism, media independence, and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists.”

The Philippines’ current rank on the list  is lower than last year’s, which is at 127th.

Meanwhile, Norway remains as the top country in the world for press freedom; North Korea is still ranked last.

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