Rappler CEO Maria Ressa speaks at a rally during the Black Friday protest on January 19, 2018, triggered by the revocation of the online news outlet's registration.

[Philippines] Duterte administration stepped up attacks against media, critics in 2018 — HRW

From “outspoken senators to journalists documenting his abuses,” President Rodrigo Duterte has directed his ire at individuals and groups, as well as media outlets, that are perceived as undermining his authority.

In its latest report released Thursday, 17 January 2019, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) decries the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and its consequent impact, among others, on freedom of expression in the country. 

Duterte’s administration “ratcheted up its attack on media freedom” in 2018 with the threat to close online news site Rappler,  said the 29thedition of the HRW report.

In January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked the registration of Rappler, saying it violated foreign equity restrictions on mass media. Rappler and its editor and founder, Maria Ressa, were also indicted for tax evasion in November 2018. The online news outlet is known for its critical reports of Duterte’s “war on drugs” among other issues.

HRW also cited as threats to press freedom in the Philippines the proposed rules of the legislature to ban reporters who “besmirch” the reputation of lawmakers and the recorded six journalist killings in 2018.

“The killings of journalists continued in 2018, with six murdered by unidentified gunmen in different parts of the country,” said the report.

Critics of the Duterte administration were also targeted in 2018, said the report.

In an unprecedented move in 2018, the Supreme Court of the Philippines removed then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from office. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was stripped of his amnesty granted to him under the previous administration. Both were critical of the Duterte administration.

Senator Leila de Lima, also a staunch critic of Duterte’s “war on drugs”, remains in jail.

Duterte did not spare even the Catholic church, known, too, for its critical stance toward the president and his policies, as bishops were labeled corrupt and “most Filipino priests homosexuals,” according to the 674-page report. He has since intensified his attacks against priests, and even exhorted the Filipino populace to kill them, saying they are “good for nothing” since all they do is criticize his administration.

The HRW World Report reviews human rights practices around the world, looking at key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide.

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