Press Freedom in the Time of COVID-19: The Philippine Experience Under the Duterte Administration




Autocratization, COVID-19 Pandemic, Media Studies, Philippine Democracy, Press Freedom


The media plays an important role in disseminating vital information and being ‘watchdogs’ of government misconduct. Press freedom is constitutionally guaranteed in the Philippines, but the space for journalists and media companies continues to shrink. This is because constant attempts have been made to suppress and silence them through the government’s targeted attacks, which can be characterized into three categories: classifying media as allies and enemies, the weaponization of laws, and personal and institutional attacks. The emergence of COVID-19 made press freedom even more challenging due to the threat of infection and government-imposed restrictions and measures. This research deployed interviews with multiple journalists and a review of secondary data. The study shows that state interference, challenges in fulfilling journalistic roles, and the obstruction of the free flow of information during the pandemic resulted in three levels of fear among journalists: fear of losing one’s network, fear of losing credibility, and fear of personal safety.

Author Biographies

Candace Noreen Bagalawis, De La Salle University, Philippines

Candace Noreen Bagalawis graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies (Magna Cum Laude) from De La Salle University – Manila. She currently works in the private sector and her research interests are Philippine politics, Southeast Asian Studies, and E-Commerce. 

Rose Marie Villanueva, De La Salle University, Philippines

Rose Marie Villanueva has an undergraduate degree in Southeast Asian Studies (Magna Cum Laude) from De La Salle University – Manila. Her research interests are ASEAN Studies, micro, small, and medium enterprises, and Development.

Jovito Jose Katigbak, De La Salle University, Philippines

Jovito Jose P. Katigbak is a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Development Studies of the College of Liberal Arts, De La Salle University – Manila. He has a bachelor’s degree in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs (Magna Cum Laude) from De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde and a master’s degree in Development Policy from De La Salle University – Manila. His research interests are Political Economy, Southeast Asian Studies, Public Policy, and Development, among others. Jovito is also the founder of Manila-based VIKAT Research Consultancy Services. 


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