Phl press freedom worries envoy

The United States, through its Embassy in Manila, has expressed support for press freedom in the Philippines as it extended its condolences to the family of slain journalist Percival Mabasa.

US Ambassador Mary Kat Carlson said her country has “noted with concern” the fall of the Philippines in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index in 2022.

The Philippines placed 147th among 180 countries this year from 138th in 2021.

On Tuesday, a certain Joel Estorial was presented to the media by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos on Tuesday, claiming he was the gunman in the operation to kill the broadcaster for which his team of six men was paid P550,000 (See related story).

Also known via his broadcasting name Percy Lapid, Mabasa was shot dead by two men aboard a motorcycle in Las Piñas City on 3 October while on his way to work.

The killing of Mabasa has prompted the Philippine National Police to reach out to journalists facing similar threats.

However, the effort drew flak from members of the media who expressed fear and protested the alleged invasion of their privacy with the unannounced visits by plainclothes policemen asking questions in their neighborhoods.

Secretary Abalos and National Capital Region Police Office chief P/Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo over the weekend apologized over the brouhaha.

“It was shocking, and we extend deepest condolences to Percy Lapid and his family and to anyone who is a subject of violence in that regard, especially when it’s a journalist whose job it is to often reveal truths that are not convenient — the inconvenient truths,” Ambassador Carlson said.

“We support freedom of expression, we support press freedom, and we work through our press office, through our political section, through our Human Rights Office in the State Department in the United States, to make sure that we call attention to these concerns,” she added.

Mabasa’s brother Roy, thanked the US official for her expression of support and sympathy during a roundtable forum in Makati.

“Lending your voice, on behalf of the American people, to call for justice and support press freedom warms our hearts and gives us hope during this difficult time. We are deeply grateful,” a statement from the Mabasa family said.

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