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‘Witting’ proxies for foreign money

Kristina Maralit

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On World Press Freedom Day, the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) scored media organizations who “wittingly and knowingly” committed the highest form of corruption when they accepted funding from foreign entities.

The NPC named several groups allegedly benefitting from foreign funding for their operations.

“From the now available facts, we are referring to the fact that Rappler, Vera Files, Center for Media Responsibility (CMFR), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) as direct beneficiaries of foreign largesse running in the millions of pesos every year,” part of the NPC’s statement read.

“We are referring to the fact that for many years now, other media organizations are directly receiving from foreign sources to fund their activities, particularly from front organizations identified with the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and from non-government organizations based in Europe,” it added.

Said entities, seemingly to have branded themselves as “God’s gift” to journalism, have “bastardized the profession” through their distorted and one-sided presentation of “facts” on a host of issues on a daily basis, according to the NPC.

“The result is a people divided, a government unable to focus on its job of good governance and our profession fast losing its credibility and standing as a pillar of our democracy,” it said.

Opportunity from adversity

“And so, as we join in the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, we call on all self-respecting members of the Philippine media not to lose hope. Let us turn this adversity into opportunity. Rally behind the National Press Club. Together, we shall be able to cast away these foreign puppets in our midst who have greatly damaged the name and prestige of the media profession in our country,” the NPC added.

Incidentally, Rappler, Vera Files and the PCIJ were also among those tagged by Malacañang in collusion with other groups supposedly plotting the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte from power.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar vowed President Duterte and his administration will continue to respect the rights of media workers in the country, contrary to what critics previously claimed that the government has caused a “shrinking space for the free press.”

“Rest assured that the Duterte administration will continue to respect press freedom in our country contrary to the allegations of some. We are one with all mediamen in the country and the whole world in pushing for and protecting the rights to press freedom,” Andanar said in a statement.

He also assured that his office will not cease in its campaign against disinformation or the spread of fake news as this “destroys the free press.”

Among the efforts to promote a free press is the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), approved and signed by President Duterte on the first month of his term, Andanar said.

The PTFoMS was created through Administration Order 01 to address media killings and harassments.

Partners for press freedom

The PTFoMS also called on members of media to become government’s partner in protecting press freedom.

“We are calling on our colleagues in the media to become continuing partners in sustaining gains in terms of protecting press freedom and be reminded of the fundamental responsibility of members of the Fourth Estate to adhere to established professional and ethical standards in the practice of their profession,” PTFoMS executive director Undersecretary Joel Egco said.

This year’s celebration is themed “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation,” which Egco said is “very appropriate for the Philippines” as the country approaches the midterm elections on 13 May.

“In harmonizing the purpose of celebrating World Press Freedom Day with this year’s theme, we are prompted to examine the issues confronting the stakeholders of a free press and to formulate policies that will address and resolve these issues,” he said.

He raised the concern on the so-called “vulnerabilities of media workers” said to be rooted in the media’s failure to adhere to the principles of “truthfulness, fairness and accuracy in reporting the news.”

“Fortunately, this concern has also been shared by the active media partners of the Task Force that have been very supportive of its activities and have been helpful in proposing policies geared towards the protection of media workers,” he said.

“Accordingly, the Task Force continues to work with these media partners as it maps out its upcoming activities for the rest of the year,” he added.

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