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I am one with the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day, and in paying tribute to journalists who dedicate their lives in the service of truth and democracy.

Time and again, societies have seen how press freedom plays a critical role in upholding democratic ideals of a country–it exposes abuses, holds government and leaders accountable for their actions, and protects human rights.

It is thus, very troubling to see that in the Philippines, no less than the President himself leads the attack on the media. President Rodrigo Duterte has blatantly threatened the members of the press, may they be from local or international organizations, and has cursed them numerous times for every criticism he receives.

Recently, he even dangled the possibility of rejecting a network’s license to operate. At the same time, he threatened to go after a major shareholder of a newspaper giant after reading negative stories about the way he is running the government.

These are only some of his foul and crooked ways to make the media toe the line. By threatening a government assault on two of the most influential media outfits in the country for supposed personal slights committed against him, President Duterte clearly shows he disregards constitutional principles of press freedom and democratic governance.

We now see that under the Duterte regime, the threat to freedom of expression is real, not only because of his tantrums, but also because of the continued proliferation of fake news and organized efforts on historical revisionism that are attributable to him and his minions.

In this increasingly globalized world, press freedom is an integral part of nation building. Silencing the press is killing our right to speak freely and voice out our concerns. Should we let ourselves be cowed amid the spate of summary executions and in the face of clear attempts to kill our democracy?

The press must now, more than ever, remain steadfast in their commitment to expose the truth and fight for what is right. Together with all the people of goodwill around the world, we must take a stand, and defend its independence. Let us fight the lies, let us uphold press freedom, let us advance a just, humane and peaceful community of nations.

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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