Philippines: Duterte asks press to remove masks and face shields at press conference

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte during a press conference on July 1 asked a reporter to take off her face mask and face shield when asking him a question. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) condemn President Duterte’s actions and urge the government of the Philippines to make the health and safety of media workers a priority.

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a press conference in Manila. Credit: TED ALJIBE / AFP

The press conference was President Duterte’s first since February 2021 and was held to inaugurate the Light Rail Transit Line 2. TV5 reporter, Maricel Halili, was the first reporter to present a question and after introducing herself and beginning to ask her question, Duterte said he could not make out what the reporter was saying and instructued her to take off her face mask and face shield.

Duterte said “Just take it off. Let’s have COVID together.”

Rappler has commented that “Halili was perfectly audible, at least through the video livestream of the event.” Ironically, on June 21 Duterte himself implemented a rule that mandatory masks and face shields be worn in both indoor and outdoor areas due to fears surrounding the spread of the Delta COVID-19 virus variant.

Protection from COVID-19 has been a difficult task for journalists during the pandemic. The NUJP commented that many correspondents and stringers have had to acquire their own personal protective equipment and find ways to get themselves tested.

The NUJP said: “While Duterte and those close to him have easy access to medical facilities and vaccines, many media workers do not. In fact, many of our colleagues are still waiting to complete their vaccination and many others have yet to receive their first dose.”

The IFJ said: “The actions of President Duterte during this press conference were appalling and hypocritical. They set an abysmal precendent for protecting the health and safety of journalists during the pandemic. We urge the President to reevaluate his approach to communicating with the press and to respect his own rules.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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