The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has reported a marked improvement on the security of media workers under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte owing largely to proactive measures that are now in place to ensure a safer environment for members of the working press.
Although one case, that of Catanduanes News Now publisher Larry Que has been verified to be a media worker killing (MWK), a number of cases handled by the task force involved threats, harassment and physical assault against journalists. This is the first time that the government has documented and taken action on potentially deadly incidents reported by the victims themselves.
PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco reported to the body during its regular meeting on Wednesday that besides the murder of Que, the Presidential Task Force reported eight shooting incidents, six threats and one case each for physical attack and complaint.
The task force is chaired by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd and co-chaired by Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. Those who attended the meeting include representatives from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, National Press Club, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, Philippine Press Institute, Publishers Association of the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
“Unlike in the past when government only comes in after the fact or when a media worker had been killed, we are now mandated under Administrative Order No. 1 to act promptly on the first signs of trouble, as soon as a complaint reached us,” stressed Egco, who was a journalist for more than two decades and former president of the National Press Club.
He noted that in the first nine months of the previous administration, there were seven cases of media killings. Egco attributed the drop in the number of media killings to the Task Force’s vigilance and immediate response to reports of threats and harassment perpetrated against media workers.
Death threats are immediately investigated and if needed, police protection is given to journalists who report threats to their life.
The task force is investigating the killing of Remate columnist Joaquin “Jun” Briones. Unlike in the case of Que, results of the initial investigation do not indicate that the killing was connected with his work as a columnist and therefore, the case has yet to be included in the count of media killings.
Members of the Briones family, including his brother and a daughter, suspected that the killing of Jun could be “politically-motivated,” citing the victim’s active participation in local politics.
These findings will form part of the PTFoMS’ report to Duterte in April.
Egco said the PTFoMS aims to prevent media killings through various proactive measures lined up in the organization’s Operational Guidelines.
The agency has 174 old cases in its inventory representing journalist killings beginning in 1986 until May 2016.