By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE ENVIRONMENT for journalists under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s administration remains harsh but the press’ “overt antagonism” against the state has eased from the previous administration, according to the latest report of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

In its 2023 prison census report, the CPJ said the Philippines is among other Asian countries with journalists languishing in jail, mentioning it among the ranks of India which has seven in prison and Afghanistan with one.

Although it listed China (44 in jail) and Myanmar (43 in jail) as the top jailers of journalists in Asia, the CPJ cited the case of Frenchie Mae Cumpio who marked her fourth year in a Tacloban City jail this month.

It said Ms. Cumpio remains “the one journalist in prison in the Southeast Asian country, which was once a regional bastion of press freedom” on what her lawyers call “trumped-up illegal arms and terror finance charges.”

During her visit to Manila last month, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan questioned Ms. Cumpio’s prolonged detention.

Presidential Communications Office chief Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment on the matter.

The CPJ’s census said there are 320 journalists behind bars all over the world as of Dec. 1, 2023. It accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those marked as disappeared or held captive by non-state actors.

The Philippines ranked eighth in the Global Impunity Index released by the CPJ last year, citing 14 unsolved murders involving journalists in the country in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has placed the media off its traditional annual alumni homecoming scheduled on Feb. 18 in Baguio City and offered no explanation why.

“Negative for media accreditation/coverage for this year’s Alumni Homecoming,” PMA spokesperson Major Charito Dulay told reporters in Baguio City on Tuesday, citing “such is the guidance provided” by PMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Rowen S. Tolentino.

However, Mr. Dulay said units participating in the alumni homecoming — like the Armed Forces’ major services or the Philippine National Police’s Public Information Office — will not be restricted from inviting or having “their own photographers or videographers who will cover the event.”

Also, he said that the PMA is working out to have the homecoming rites livestreamed over at Facebook, depending on “the approval of Lt. Gen. Tolentino.” — with a report from Artemio A. Dumlao