Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Sunday guaranteed that President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration would continue to protect the rights and freedom of the press in the Philippines.
Andanar gave the assurance as he joined journalists and media workers in the Philippines and around the world in celebrating the World Press Freedom Day.
May 3 is proclaimed as World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness on the importance of press freedom and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
In a press statement, Andanar stressed that Duterte formed the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and signed Republic Act 11458 and Executive Order (EO) 2 on Freedom of Information (FOI) to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers. PTFoMS is chaired by PCOO Undersecretary Joel Egco.
“A free and pluralistic press continues to play an important role in the foundation and progress of an informed and empowered society,” Andanar said. “We will continue to endeavor towards the continued promotion of press rights and freedom.”
PTFoMS, created through Administrative Order 1 inked by Duterte in October 2016, is tasked to protect members of the press in the country.
RA 11458, on the other hand, was signed in August 2019 to expand the coverage of a law protecting journalists, including broadcast and online journalists, from revealing confidential sources.
Duterte also signed EO 2 on FOI in July 2016 as part of his campaign promise to promote transparency in the government by allowing Filipinos to obtain documents and records from public offices under the executive branch.
Andanar admitted that there will be an “intellectual vacuum” on public information and government programs and services sans an “open and free press.”
He added there will also be no dialogue on societal issues, public grievances and government policies without press freedom.
Continued delivery of news
Andanar also acknowledged that protected press freedom has allowed the continued reporting of Filipino journalists amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic (Covid-19) in the country.
“With the current Covid-19 pandemic, press freedom has allowed for the continued delivery of news and reports to all Filipino households. It has also helped voice out the public’s pulse and serve as an avenue for the government to increase public awareness of its policies and report its activities with complete transparency,” he said.
Media workers are exempted from observing the strict home quarantine amid the implementation of enhanced community quarantine imposed in the country to stop the further transmission of Covid-19.
Andanar lauded the journalists for their “heroism, bravery, and service” amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
“With these in mind, we pray for the safety of everyone, especially the journalists and media workers currently reporting from the frontlines despite the pandemic,” he said.
Rightful, truthful news
Andanar expressed hope that “rightful and truthful” information would prevail amid the health crisis.
He made the remarks amid the spread of fake news about the government’s fight against Covid-19.
Andanar, a veteran journalist, called on members of the press to help the government stop the proliferation of false information.
“Let us work together as well, to eradicate biased information, misinformation, disinformation and fake news that continue to damage not only our society, but the trust and the relationship between the government and the people, a relationship that must be maintained in order for our society to function as a whole,” he said. (PNA)