Growing Threats to Journalists in the Philippines Amid Escalating Regional Tensions

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The Growing Threats Faced by Journalists in the Philippines

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) has recently highlighted the increasing dangers faced by journalists in the country, particularly in light of the escalating geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region. In a statement released on Press Freedom Day, FOCAP revealed alarming incidents such as impersonation, spoofing, and an uptick in messages from fake or suspicious email addresses targeting journalists. These attempts aim to either extract information or manipulate the news agenda, particularly regarding coverage of the South China Sea.

According to FOCAP, at least one of its members was alerted to two attempted hacks traced back to the government. While the source of these threats remains unclear, FOCAP calls on journalists and the public to remain vigilant. In a highly charged geopolitical situation, there is no shortage of attempts to bait, influence, misrepresent, and smear the free press.

Despite these challenges, FOCAP remains steadfast and dedicated to its pursuit of truth. The association refuses to be swayed by any threat, domestic or foreign, and will continue to record and monitor such incidents while providing support to its members under threat or attack.

The Vulnerability of Journalists in the Philippines

FOCAP is not the only organization expressing concerns about the safety of journalists in the Philippines. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also emphasizes the increasing risks faced by environmental journalists in the country.

Citing a report from Global Witness, the NUJP highlights the Philippines as the deadliest country in Asia for media practitioners reporting on environmental issues. The murder of environmental journalist Gerry Ortega, the assassination attempt on Northern Dispatch journalist Brandon Lee, and the imprisonment of Tacloban-based reporter Frenchie Mae Cumpio are just a few examples of the dangers faced by journalists covering these critical topics.

The NUJP further explains that alternative and community journalists, who often cover issues such as mining, logging, and land reclamation, face additional risks due to their remote locations. They are often labeled as “anti-development” or red-tagged outright, putting their safety and well-being at even greater risk.

Recognizing the urgent need for action, the NUJP states that with the expected increase in extreme weather events and their devastating impact, every story becomes an environmental story. The government and the community must do more to protect journalists who cover climate change and the development aggression that contributes to it, as well as the destruction of the environment.

The Global Threat to Environmental Journalists

While the dangers faced by journalists in the Philippines are concerning, it is important to acknowledge that this is not an isolated issue. A survey conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in March revealed that 70% of environmental journalists from 129 countries reported experiencing attacks, threats, or pressure related to their job.

Disturbingly, two in five of those journalists subsequently experienced physical violence. UNESCO warns of an increase in violence and intimidation against journalists reporting on the environment and climate, emphasizing the crucial role reliable scientific information plays in addressing the ongoing environmental crisis.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay stated, “Without reliable scientific information about the ongoing environmental crisis, we can never hope to overcome it. And yet the journalists we rely on to investigate this subject and ensure information is accessible face unacceptably high risks all over the world, and climate-related disinformation is running rampant on social media.”

The report released by UNESCO on World Press Freedom Day reveals that between 2009 and 2023, at least 749 journalists and news media outlets reporting on environmental issues were targeted with murder, physical violence, detention and arrest, online harassment, or legal attacks.

These statistics underscore the urgent need for global attention and action to protect journalists and ensure their safety as they play a critical role in informing the public and holding those in power accountable.

Source: The Manila Times

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