PH further drops in ranking in press freedom index

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) — The Philippines once again fell two places in the World Press Freedom Index, ranking 138th among 180 countries this year.

This is the fourth time that the country dropped in the list by Reporters Without Borders. In 2020, the country was 136th, then 134th in 2019, and 133rd in 2018.

In its report, the group said the Philippines is one of the countries where press freedom is classified as bad or very bad and where it is blocked. It noted that at least 10 countries used the COVID-19 pandemic to reinforce obstacles to the free flow of information.

“Thailand (up 3 at 137th), Philippines (down 2 at 138th), Indonesia (up 6 at 113th) and Cambodia (144th) adopted extremely draconian laws or decrees in the spring of 2020 criminalising any criticism of the government’s actions and, in some cases, making the publication or broadcasting of “false” information punishable by several years in prison,” RSF said.

The index annually ranks the press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories. Countries are ranked using categories good, fairly good, problematic, bad, and very bad.

For 2021, Norway ranked first for the fifth time despite complaints from its media of lack of access on state-held information about the pandemic, while Eritrea ranked last due to government efforts to maintain full control over news and information.

This year’s results also revealed that journalism, despite being the best vaccine against the virus of disinformation, is totally blocked in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others.

“The Index data reflect a dramatic deterioration in people's access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage,” RSF said. “The coronavirus pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field.”

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire noted that information is often blocked by political, economic, technological, and cultural factors.

In a regional perspective, it noted that the whole Asia-Pacific’s authoritarian regimes used the pandemic as a perfect way to control information, while “dictatorial democracies” used the health crisis for the implementation of repressive legislations.

“The behaviour of the region’s few real democracies have meanwhile shown that journalistic freedom is the best antidote to disinformation,” it added.