‘That’s a crime’: Duterte hit for blackmailing media

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – An official of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said President Rodrigo Duterte had resort to blackmailing media organizations in his attempt to silence criticism or contrary views. 

And that, according NUJP national director Nonoy Espina, is "a crime."

Espina on Friday, February 2, cited recent threats from the administration against independent media  during the “Roundtable Talk: Defending Press Freedom” at the Negros Press Club (NPC) building here.

The talk was part of a series of Friday activities led by NUJP and other media organizations under the #BlackFridayForPressFreedom campaign. The series kicked off on January 19, the same week the Securities and Exchange Commission released its decision revoking the license of online news network Rappler. (READ: FAQs: Rappler's SEC case)

Espina said Duterte, like any other president, doesn’t like to be criticized. The Chief Executive wants to silence Rappler, which reports critical stories about the administration, the NUJP official said.

He also said that Duterte continues to threaten ABS-CBN that he will not allow its franchise to be renewed. 

“What’s worse, he later said he will renew their franchise but they have to support federalism,” he said.

Espina stressed it’s blackmail, and when the President resorts to that, “That’s a crime.”

He pointed out that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos didn’t blackmail the media, “he just closed the outlets right away.”

He acknowledged that there’s stiff competition in the media – newspaper versus newspaper, station versus station, news website versus news website – and at times the competition gets personal. He called on his colleagues to remain united. 

“We should not allow that we will be silenced, [not] even our competition, because once they succeed, all of us will be silenced,” Espina said.

Renato Duran, NPC president, said he joined the call to uphold press freedom because the attempt to shut down Rappler might create a chilling effect among media practitioners. They may grow afraid of criticizing the administration because they might suffer the same fate. 

“We are watchdogs of the government. If we can’t do that responsibility, then we are not effective media practitioners,” he said.

Duran said the press club supports press freedom, but this should be coupled with responsibility. “We have to be responsible in our reporting.”

NUJP-Bacolod also said the press ensures checks and balances in the 3 branches of the government, as it is deemed critical to our democracy.

“The administration's attempt to silence and censor the dissent is a clear threat [to] and harassment [of] the press. We need to strive hard to keep our government in check and the public informed,” the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the media groups in Bacolod will come up with a joint statement reiterating their call for government to uphold press freedom. It will also meet soon with other sectors like church, campus journalists and academe to push media literacy. – Rappler.com