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Press freedom, democracy under threat in Philippines, says chief justice

Press freedom, democracy under threat in Philippines, says chief justice

Attacks on journalists in the Philippines are undermining press freedom and putting the country's democracy "under siege," the country's Supreme Court chief justice warned Wednesday.
Reporters also face harassment through abuse of defamation and libel laws, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said.
"It is a dangerous time for those who report the truth," Puno said in a speech at an international conference in Manila on press freedom.
"Democracy is all about the voice of the people," Puno said. "Democracy in this country is under siege because bullets fired at the direction of journalists pierce not only human flesh, but also our republican ideals."
Since 1986, when democracy was restored after dictator Ferdinand Marcos' ouster in a "people power" revolt, 70 journalists have been killed in the Philippines, according to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, one of the organizers of the conference.
The number of journalists murdered is the fifth-highest in the world, Puno said, citing 1992-2008 figures from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Puno decried "censorship by killing" and the harassment of democracy advocates, especially journalists.
"It is this enforced silence that we ought to break, for if there is anything that democracy can ill afford it is the sovereignty of the deaf and the dumb," he said.
Media and human rights groups have accused the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of suppressing the press, citing most recently an incident in which two busloads of journalists who covered a failed coup on Nov. 29 were rounded up by police for several hours. Officials said the journalists refused to leave the site of the attempted coup despite warnings and hampered police operations.
Arroyo has denied accusations of media harassment, citing efforts by her government to stop the growing number of killings of journalists and left-wing activists.
In October, the Justice Department ordered the speedy resolution of cases of human rights violations and killings allegedly committed by "agents of the state."
The chief justice said only one of 33 cases filed in connection with the killings of journalists has been resolved. Six are undergoing trial, 18 are still under investigation, four have been dismissed and four are pending prosecution.


Updated : 2021-03-01 23:43 GMT+08:00