It’s easy to believe Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s pronouncements about press freedom if killers of journalists have been brought to justice, if Frenchie Mae Cumpio has been released, if red-tagging has stopped, if libel has been decriminalized, if the order to block websites has been junked and other ifs, which, to this day, remain undone.

At the FOCAP forum, Marcos again promised that his administration is “steadfast in adhering to our shared mission of advancing the welfare of the Filipinos and nurturing a truly free and safe environment for all journalists” but the situation on the ground is far from ideal. NUJP has documented over 117 incidents of attacks since he assumed the presidency. This is 39 percent higher compared to the same period under Duterte.

Specific recommendations by UN Special Rapporteur on Free Expression and Opinion Irene Khan have so far been ignored, such as the abolition of National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), decriminalization of libel, passage of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, dismissal of charges against Cumpio, among others.

Marcos cannot simply offer empty words, and expect the independent press to stop being critical.

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