Philippines | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Philippines

Philippines

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

35

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

19

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

10

The Philippine press had until recently enjoyed the reputation of being one of the freest in the developing world. Press freedom is enshrined in the constitution, which guarantees that "no law shall be passed abridging freedom of speech, of expression, or of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." This freedom legally has few limitations, such as the laws of libel, national security, privacy, and obscenity. There is no licensing of newspapers or journalists.

The killing of Filipino journalists continued to pose the greatest threat to press freedom. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), 13 journalists were killed, making 2004 one of the deadliest years on record for newsmen. The latest victim was Stephen Omaois, a reporter for Guru Press, a community newspaper in Tabuk in remote Kalinga province, who was killed in December. This brought the number of journalists killed since the restoration of democracy in 1986 to 57, according to the NUJP. NUJP chair Inday Espina-Varona has alleged that criminal syndicates engaged in illegal drugs and gambling are likely to be behind the brutal murders of the newsmen. No one has been convicted of any of the murders, leading to sustained criticism from international press freedom watchdogs of a "culture of impunity" in which the government has not shown a commitment to seriously addressing this sustained threat to media freedom. Meanwhile, on the eve of presidential elections in May, the national Commission on Elections shut down two stations run by the private network Bombo Radyo in Cauayan City. After protests from local journalists who condemned the action as politically motivated, the stations were allowed to reopen a week later.

The press, mostly privately owned, has been vibrant and outspoken, with a tendency toward innuendo and sensationalism. The political and economic environment, however, has deteriorated since democracy was restored in 1986. There has been a trend toward concentration of ownership, with two powerful broadcast networks (ABS-CBN and GMA) now capturing a majority share of audiences and advertising. Politicians and businessmen with close ties to politicians influence journalists with economic incentives.