Press Release
June 14, 2018

Dispatch from Crame No. 325:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima's statement on the slow death of press freedom under Duterte


The freedom of the press can be destroyed in so many ways. During the Marcos dictatorship, it was dealt one forceful blow, as all media establishments were padlocked in one day upon the declaration of Martial Law. Today, it is being done slowly but surely, but it is still destruction of press freedom nevertheless.

In the case of a major news outfit, breaking the will of this EDSA newspaper icon was achieved through a personal assault conducted by none other than the President using all the powers of his office. Duterte threatened criminal cases against the owners of the paper and succeeded in taming what always was a newspaper that bannered press freedom since EDSA. Its erstwhile fire in the belly in reporting the news seems to be gone. I just hope that it does not turn into just another Duterte mouthpiece.

I find disturbing a recent tweet by a known reporter about the bosses of a "leading online news website" ordering its reporters to, among others, stop coverage of Duterte-critical comments, from Sen. Trillanes and me. This is not only a mere change in editorial policy, this is already suppression of press freedom by the State as coursed through a threatened management and editorial board.

By achieving what Marcos could only achieve by declaring Martial Law, Duterte has already surpassed the great dictator. He no longer needs to declare martial law to padlock the press and start controlling the media. He has accomplished this even without using force, but just the threat of it. There are still some holdouts, but it is only a matter of time before they too get into Duterte's crosshairs and shot like ducks in a field.

For Duterte, the beginning of his third year in office will be an open season of hunting down dissenters and a free media, as his popularity starts to diminish and the people realize that he has nothing but fake promises and a demented vision for the nation.

Hopefully, the awakening of the people will coincide with the press's realization why they have always been considered the Fourth Estate, and that eventually they will regain that same fire in the belly that restored a free press to the country in 1986.

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