Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
134/ 180
Score : 43.36
Political indicator
Economic indicator
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Index 2023
132/ 180
Score : 46.21
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The Philippine media are extremely dynamic despite the government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment of journalists and media outlets regarded as overly critical, especially since 2016, when Rodrigo Duterte became president.

Media landscape

Radio and TV are the most popular media and, of these, the gigantic GMA-7 TV network has an audience share of nearly 50%. Its main competitor, the ABS-CBN network, was stripped of its franchise in 2020 but continues to broadcast online, where its presence is growing. The print media are losing momentum, even if the Philippine Daily Inquirer is still the newspaper of record, now driven by its digital version, The Rappler news site, founded by Nobel peace laureate Maria Ressa in 2012, has established a stable online and social media readership. Once dominant regional newspapers, such as the Sunstar Baguio and the Visayan Daily Star are struggling to survive without a strong online presence. 

Political context

Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year presidency (2016-2022) was marked by his many verbal attacks against journalists coupled with judicial harassment of any media deemed overly critical of the government. During Duterte’s term, congress refused to renew the ABS-CBN network’s franchise in 2020, leading to the closure of dozens of radio stations and TV channels. Several news websites, such as the Altermidya network sites, were also the targets of cyberattacks by pro-Duterte trolls. Since Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr – the son of former dictator and historic press freedom predator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr – became president in June 2022, there seem to have been fewer and less violent attacks of this kind, but they are still worrisome.  Harassment by means of threats and “red-tagging” persists, while defamation and cyber-defamation are still punishable by prison sentences.

Legal framework

The 1987 constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but Philippine law does not protect journalistic freedom in practice. Defamation is still criminalised and the journalist Maria Ressa faces the possibility of several decades in prisonas a result of legal actions brought by several government agencies. Her acquittal in a tax evasion case in September 2023 was seen as an encouraging development, but the government continues to use laws relating to media ownership and taxation to harass critical media such as the Rappler site. Some journalists critical of the authorities are facing trumped-up criminal charges. Alternative website editor Frenchie Mae Cumpio has been detained since 2020 on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, non-bailable offences punishable by imprisonment. Another alternative journalist, Lady Ann Salem, was previously detained for four months on similar trumped-up charges.

Economic context

Mainstream media ownership has recently reached even greater levels of concentration than in the past – a development accompanied by closer ties between media owning families and political barons at regional and national levels. The ABS-CBNGMA duopoly is now being challenged by a third media giant, the Villar family’s Villar Group, which is openly affiliated to former President Duterte's clan. Even more worrying is the growing influence of the current President Marcos's cousin, Martin Romualdez, who is speaker of the House of Representatives. In 2023, his company, Prime Media, which owns the Manila Standard newspaper, established a joint venture with ABS-CBN's radio business to gain even more influence. The Internet and social media offer a space where many independent media can work freely but their economic viability is uncertain.

Sociocultural context

Under Duterte, who was nicknamed the “Punisher,” journalists were targeted if they tried to report on his draconian “war on drugs.” The policy of his successor, Bongbong Marcos, is more consensual, but the authorities still often resort to “red-tagging” – a practice inherited from the colonial era and Cold War in which journalists who do not toe the government line are branded as “subversive elements” or “reds.” This is tantamount to telling law enforcement that they are legitimate targets for arbitrary arrest or even summary execution


The Philippines is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, as highlighted in 2009 when 32 reporters were massacred in the southern province of Maguindanao. Impunity for these crimes is almost total. In an attempt to address this issue, the government set up a Presidential Task Force on Media Security in 2016, but this inter-ministerial body has proved unable to stem the vicious cycle of violence against journalists. At the regional level, many journalists are also the target of threats and lawsuits, while women journalists are subjected to specific gender-based threats, such as threats of rape, cyber-harassment, disclosure of personal details and so on.