Freedom of Expression Conference 2 Declaration
We, the members of the media, campus journalists, online bloggers, human rights defenders and members of civil society organizations gathered on 27 November 2018, for the Freedom of Expression Conference 2 or FreeXP.con2 organized by the Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) to discuss the state of human rights in the Philippines especially the right to freedom of opinion and expression hereby agreed that:
WE RECOGNIZE the role freedom of opinion and expression both online and offline in the promotion and protection of other human rights, observance of the rule of law and preserving the democratic processes;
WE REAFFIRM that freedom of opinion and expression are fundamental human rights as enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and other international human rights instruments; and guaranteed by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and other national laws;
WE ARE CONCERNED by the growing prevalence of disinformation in the form of “false” or “fake news” and propaganda machination in social media, which are orchestrated by both the State and private citizens designed and implemented to mislead and to deny the public of the right to know and the right to seek and receive as well as to impart information and ideas in order to hold responsible opinions;
WE ARE ALARMED by the attempt of the government to restrict, curtail or suppress freedom of opinion and expression by instituting repressive measures to discourage the exercise of these rights by imposing severe criminal sanctions such as the cyber libel provisions under the Republic Act No. 10175, or the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” and Senate Bill No. 1492 or the “Anti-Fake News Act of 2017”;
WE EXPRESS OUR COLLECTIVE CONCERN over the persisting threats, harassment, intimidation, legal persecution and even killings of journalists and human rights defenders in order to stifle dissent and silence critics; while many of these cases of attacks, intimidation and killing are not investigated or made those responsible into account;
WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE NEED TO FIGHT BACK by supporting each other through legal means, campaigns, advocacy and provision of technical support in addressing the impact of threats, disinformation and propaganda on freedom of opinion and expression and the shrinking democratic spaces which further intensify the affront to human rights;
WE WELCOME AND ENCOURAGE the various initiatives and actions to protect and defend freedom of opinion and expression both online and offline by various groups and network; and put forward the following
1. Recognize that blocking measures of some legitimate websites by the government constitute serious interferences with freedom of expression;
2. Promote an enabling environment for freedom of opinion and expression. To this end, authorities should refrain from prosecuting or penalizing journalists and other media actor for performing their legitimate work, including through their online activities;
3. Fact checking is one of the means to debunk misinformation and disinformation spread on the internet through websites and social media;
4. Strengthen and extend human rights defenders capacity to document and analyze human rights violations, to amplify them both online and offline, and to more effectively organize locally and internationally; and
5. Immediate passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection law in the Philippines which is in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
Signed and adopted by participants of the FreeXP.con2 on 27th day of November 2018 at Prime Hotel, Quezon City, Philippines.