UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Non-Interference in Media Operations

PRESS FREEDOM ADVOCATE Irene Khan, United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, discusses her initial assessment of the freedom of the press in the country during a briefing at the UN office in Mandaluyong City on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Khan said that there should be less government interference in the media. Khan arrived in the country on January 22 and met with representatives of several government agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security. She visited Malacañang on Thursday, February 1, when she met with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA
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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Irene Khan, has called on the Philippine government to adopt a non-interference policy in media operations. Khan emphasized the importance of the public having access to various sources of news and information. Her statement came at the end of her two-week mission to the Philippines, during which she engaged with government officials, journalist groups, and visited jailed campus journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio in Tacloban, Leyte.

During a media briefing at the UN Office in Mandaluyong City, Khan recommended that the government find ways to enhance collaboration among government agencies in protecting journalists. She urged the administration to send a clear message to the world that journalists in the Philippines are free and safe, and that their work should not be interfered with.

Khan also highlighted the case of CNN Philippines, which closed down due to significant financial losses. To prevent similar situations, she suggested that the government implement a policy to regulate media ownership. While the government has denied any systematic attack against the press in the country, Khan stressed that more efforts are needed to improve the working climate for media professionals.

During her meeting with Supreme Court justices and Department of Justice officials, Khan recommended the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). This task force has faced criticism from civil rights groups for red-tagging. Khan argued that the NTF-Elcac, established six years ago in a different context, is outdated and fails to consider ongoing prospects for peace negotiations. She believes that its abolition will address critical drivers of red-tagging and create a more inclusive peace-making platform with the participation of women peacemakers and communities.

Furthermore, Khan urged the government to adopt a law to protect human rights defenders. This would provide a legal framework to safeguard individuals who advocate for human rights in the country.

Responding to criticisms about her visit to the Philippines, Khan clarified that she had come to Manila at the invitation of the government. She refrained from discussing the planned investigation of the International Criminal Court into President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, stating that it was not within her competence to comment on the matter.

In conclusion, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Irene Khan, has called on the Philippine government to adopt a non-interference policy in media operations. Khan’s recommendations include better collaboration among government agencies to protect journalists, the regulation of media ownership, the abolition of the NTF-Elcac, and the adoption of a law to protect human rights defenders. Her visit to the Philippines aims to address concerns regarding freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, emphasizing the importance of a vibrant and independent media landscape.

Source: The Manila Times

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