While speaking before a multi-stakeholder gathering on the safety of journalists, Danish Ambassador to the Philippines Jan Top Christensen said that some media organizations in the Philippines tend to be negatively biased when reporting on the Duterte administration and government.
“I read many different media everyday and I must say some of these media are systematically negative,” Christensen said.
He further described these media as “systemically negative”, stressing that this bias impedes their ability to fairly and truthfully present the news and report on the progress of the government. Christensen described the practice as poor compliance with journalism standards.
“To me, it’s lack of ethical standards, lack of professionalism,” he said.
President Duterte himself has previously called out mainstream media outlet’s coverage of his administration for focusing on inflammatory details, such as his uncensored, brash, and often irreverent choice of words, rather than the actual message of his speeches. In 2017, the President specifically called out The Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN for their ‘biased’ coverage and ‘shameless’ journalism.
“Journalism is always antagonistic. They are antagonistic. That’s the rule. But don’t overdo it. [Do not] slant [stories]. You’re a full of s***,” said Duterte, in 2017 in reference to the treatment both media outlets gave to their coverage of the government and Duterte himself.
Christensen in his speech also pointed out the role of the media in a democracy, acting as an important institution that provides the valuable checks and balances system which can prevent abuses of power.
“Media is seen as the fourth power in Denmark. Media is extremely important for [a] checks and balances system in a democratic society,” Christensen said.
As such, their safety and security is of tantamount importance.
For their part, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reiterated their concerns on media killing cases. According to NUJP Chairperson Nonoy Espina, whether or not the victim was suspected of engaging in corrupt journalistic practices, there should be no different treatment in cases of media violence.
“A killing is a killing. There is no justification,” Espina said.
Despite the President’s choice of words and seeming hostility against certain media groups, Duterte’s administration has from the onset taken steps to defend the safety of Filipino journalists. Duterte’s first Administrative Order as president was A.O. No. 1, entitled Creating The Presidential Task Force On Violations Of The Right To Life, Liberty And Security Of The Members Of The Media (PTFoMS). This was signed on October 11, 2016.
Christensen cited in his speech the particularly horrific incident of 2009’s Maguindanao massacre where 58 victims, at least 34 of whom were journalists, were murdered as they were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu on November 23, 2009. Their bodies were found in a mass grave. It has been called by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest enent for journalists in history.
President Duterte in August this year publicly pressed for convictions to be doled out against the suspects of the massacre, as well as instructing government prosecutors to push for partial resolution of the cases.
The event where Christensen spoke was spearheaded by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication and International Media Support. Part of the funding for the event came from the European Union and Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.