Threats and attacks against the press under Duterte

“Kill, Kill, Kill,” was not only the President’s mantra for the war on drugs. It has also become his immediate response to address other important issues including insurgency and even the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the press as submissive as it has become to the government agenda, how has government treated journalists and media practitioners? The database has not shown any change in the administration’s treatment of the media. 

Based on the consolidated data by the CMFR and the NUJP, 229 incidents were recorded as reported from June 30, 2016 to November 17, 2021 journalists have been slain in under the Duterte administration. These included various levels of harassment, verbal and physical assault, intimidation, libel charges and the banning of journalists from coverage. 

Killings

Twenty one journalists were killed in the line of work. Six were killed during the Covid-19 pandemic – four in 2020, two in 2021, all males.

Fifteen of those killed worked in radio, five in print and one online. Ten of those killed were from Mindanao, eight from Luzon and three from Visayas. 

Five from the Bicol region, four each from SOCCSKSARGEN and Central Visayas, two each from Ilocos Region, Western Mindanao, Caraga, and the Davao region.

Other Cases of Threats and Attacks

The consolidated data shows 208 other threats and attacks against journalists from June 30, 2016 to November 17, 2021.

CMFR notes the high number of cases of intimidation against journalists and media workers: including red-tagging, surveillance, threats to file cases against journalists, doxing and extortion.

52 cases of intimidation 

  • 30 were incidents of red-tagging
  • 5 Five incidents of surveillance (. Surveillance includes police visits and vehicle “tailing.”)  

Libel cases were also among the top reported cases

  • 37 cases of libel and oral defamation (8 cases led to actual arrest) 
  • 18 of these were online libel

Online harassment 

20 reported cases were only from 2017. CMFR notes that online attacks and harassment continue and are far more than the numbers recorded. Journalists battle online trolling everyday including death threats thru direct messages as well as in the comment sections of a news organizations social media page. 

One of the most recent case happened on November 15, 2021 when an overseas Filipino worker sent messages to ABS-CBN reporter Christian Esguerra threatening to bully his wife and his family and to track them down because of Esguerra’s line of questioning on his program “After the Fact.” The upcoming elections opened different kinds of online bullying and threats against the media especially from supporters of different political candidates.

Perpetrators of all kinds of attacks and threats

Involvement of state agents 

CMFR would also like to flag the increased involvement of state agents as perpetrators with 117 out of 229 cases (including killings). LGU 39, police 35, national government 35, military 8.