Filipino news site, Rappler, continues to practice its freedom of speech despite being targeted by president Rodrigo Duterte the past year, with threats of its founders and journalists being arrested. The controversial organization is known for its critiques of the state of Filipino democracy and the tragic, ineffective war on drugs, among other criticisms of the current government. President Duterte has long opposed news outlets which criticize his policies. He has accused Rappler of spreading false information and of being un-Filipino, alleging that the organization is not Filipino-owned. Earlier this year, the government pressured the Philippine Securities Exchange Commission to revoke Rappler’s media outlet status and deem it a securities dealer. This led to Rappler being responsible for taxes it should not be liable to pay. As Rappler cannot afford to pay, the Duterte administration has effectively forced the company to shut down.
The actions of the Filipino government have been seen by Rappler and others as oppressive and unconstitutional attempts to “intimidate Rappler, and our journalists, to silence.” This agenda has also spread onto social media platforms such as Facebook, with many false stories targeting Rappler going viral. Freedom of speech and journalistic freedom are crucial to the stability of our communities. Journalists actively fight for world peace by spreading the word about national and international conflicts and human rights abuses. It is essential that we protect the rights of our journalists who provide objective and empirical reports of ongoing issues. Rappler journalists, among many, have expressed concern over the increased instances of world leaders threatening and intimidating journalists. Donald Trump has been cited as an example due to his highly publicized verbal altercations with White House correspondents and his recent attempt to rationalize the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
These instances send a negative message to the rest of the world and to citizens who choose to hold onto extreme beliefs in support of their leaders. This generates a dangerous atmosphere for journalists, and in turn, threatens our access to information. This affects the well-being and safety of those within and outside of our countries’ borders. Journalists are a mechanism of accountability as they document the actions of leaders and the conflicts that continue. Journalism and freedom of the press are necessary components of both national and international governance, as they allow information to spread and change to occur. Threats to journalists also threaten world peace as a result of increased political harassment and rising tensions. I commend the Rappler journalists who do not allow themselves to be silenced by an authoritarian leader and continue to denounce the threats that exist against journalists today. As this is a recurring issue around the world, it would be helpful if the United Nations were to step in to address these human rights violations.
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