Tag Archives: press freedom

[Video] 2020 Philippine Journalists’ Safety Guide -NUJP

#HumanRights #FreedomOfThePress

2020 Philippine Journalists’ Safety Guide

Protect yourself better during the pandemic.

Download and share the 2020 Philippine Journalists’ Safety Guide and video to know how you can stay safer during this difficult time.

LINK:
https://bit.ly/nujp-sg2020

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[Statement] Look back in anger, move forward with resolve -NUJP

#HumanRights #DefendPressFreedom

Look back in anger, move forward with resolve
31 December 2020

We can’t wait to be rid of 2020.

As far as press freedom goes, this is the year the Duterte government went full force in its effort to intimidate the Philippine media – and critics and dissenters in general – into silence or timid submission to its will.

When the yet-to-be-sworn into office Rodrigo Duterte infamously said, on May 31, 2016, “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” we all knew it was going to be a bumpy ride for media.

But bad as the first three years of were, 2020 trumped them all as Duterte and his minions ramped up their attacks on the free press even as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its deadly grip felt.

In fact, the year has been bracketed by two displays of what is probably the most brazen abuse of state power: red-tagging.

On February 8, Eastern Vista executive director Frenchiemae Cumpio was arrested along with four activists during raids in Tacloban on what authorities claimed were rebel safehouses.

And on December 10, International Human Rights Day, Manila Today editor and NUJP member Lady Ann Salem was among seven persons rounded up in a series of raids in Metro Manila first touted as against a “criminal gunrunning gang” but eventually changed to ranking rebel leaders.

Both remain behind bars for predictably trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives based on planted evidence.

Days before Icy Salem’s arrest, officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict accused alternative media organizations, including NUJP chapters Kodao Productions, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly and Manila Today, of being among the supposed legal fronts of the communist underground. As in many instances of red-tagging, including accusations raised against us and our officers and members – the lies hurled against our Director, Nestor Burgos Jr. of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, by self-proclaimed rebel returnee Jeffrey Celiz are a prime example – none of these claims have been backed by credible evidence.

Even the dominant media have not been spared the malicious machinations of the NTF-ELCAC and its officials, as when the agency attempted to link the campaign in support of ABS-CBN to the insurgency, with Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. quoted in a May 8 report by the Philippine News Agency as warning critics of the network’s closure with martial law, and shared material that denigrated Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy also recently insinuated that staff of CNN Philippines may have links to the rebels because the network’s Twitter account shared the call of an activist youth group’s call for donations for typhoon victims.

The pandemic gave Duterte convenient cover to make good his repeated threats to shut down ABS-CBN, as health concerns forced the growing crowds that had rallied to the beleaguered network since late last year to stand down, and his lapdogs in the House of Representatives allowed its franchise to lapse.

On May 5, the network stopped broadcasting and, two months later, in June, the craven majority of the House committee on congressional franchises sealed its fate, voting to deny it a new franchise to operate.

Thus, did Duterte become the second president after Ferdinand Marcos to force ABS-CBN off the air.

Not only were thousands left jobless, the loss of its network of regional stations also left many areas without their major source of news and entertainment. The full extent of this would become clear during typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

The government also pressed on with its persecution of another Duterte pet peeve, Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa. In June, Ressa and former Rappler staff Reynaldo Santos Jr. were found guilty of cyber libel in a case filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng over an article written before the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act but which the Department of Justice maintained had been “republished” when a typo error was corrected. She has been sued again by Keng, this time for tweeting a screencap of a now taken down article that was a source for the story she and Santos were charged for.

With Congress continuing to ignore calls for decriminalization, libel and its more evil twin, cyber libel, continue to be favored weapons of the rich and the powerful to harass journalists who earn their ire. Among the more recent accused were our Director, Kimberlie Quitasol, who is editor-in-chief of Northern Dispatch, and their staff, Khim Abalos, both of whom have also been red-tagged; the staff of Radyo Natin Guimba, and the publisher and the editor of a community paper in Kalinga province who were sued for libel by the mayor of Tabuk City before the prosecutor’s office in Isabela province, some 100 kilometers away. In Camarines Norte, although a court cleared six journalists sued for libel by Governor Edgardo Tallado and former board member Rodolfo Gache, one of them, Virgilio Avila Jr., still has four pending cases, all filed by the governor.

In light of the growing number of libel suits, we have revived the Media Defense Fund from the proceeds of the successful Masked Media Campaign to provide some assistance to beleaguered colleagues.

Media killings continued, claiming four lives this year, all during the pandemic:

  1. Cornelio Pepino of dyMD Energy 93.7 FM in Dumaguete City, gunned down on May 5, just about an hour after ABS-CBN shut down.
  2. Jobert Bercasio of Sorsogon City, shot dead on September 14.
  3. NUJP member Virgilio Maganes, who survived an earlier attempt in 2016, killed outside his home in Villasis, Pangasinan on November 10.
  4. Ronnie Villamor, stringer for Masbate news outfit Dos Kantos Balita, who was covering the survey of disputed land when he was shot dead by Army soldiers in what authorities claimed was an “encounter.”
  5. Their deaths have brought the total of media killings under Duterte to 19, and to 191 since 1986.

To underscore the culture of impunity that surrounds the murders of journalists, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, of the cases that have made it to court, only four, including the Ampatuan massacre case, have resulted in the conviction of masterminds.

Admittedly, there were bright spots to the overall gloom surrounding this most difficult of years.

Not least of this was the successful push to have UNESCO revert the status of the Ampatuan massacre to “unresolved” after it was pointed out that the legal process is not finished and 76 suspects are still at large and will need to be tried should they be arrested.

There were also notable victories for workers who sued the GMA Network over unfair labor practices: The Court of Appeals decision in February to reinstate, with no loss of seniority and with full back wages, 51 employees who had been illegally terminated; and the September Supreme Court ruling to reinstate 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen illegally dismissed in 2013.

However, it is a sad testament to the continuing inequities within the media industry that it still takes years to seek and claim redress for such injustices.

Despite the continuing efforts of the enemies of truth to spread disinformation, the media community has, by and large, successfully fended them off, including the paid influencers and trolls of government.

As we thankfully bid goodbye to 2020, we are also aware of what could be even greater challenges and threats to freedom of the press and of expression in 2021 and beyond.

But, as we have said time and again, the Philippine media are free not because we are allowed to be but because we, the community of independent Filipino journalists, insist on being free. And, we say this with all confidence, we will continue to be, in the service of our people’s right to know.

And so we look forward to 2021 resolved to continue defending and pushing the boundaries for press freedom in our land.

DEFENDPRESSFREEDOM

DEFENDDEMOCRACY

JOURNALISMISNOTACRIME

FREEICYSALEM

FREEFRENCHIEMAECUMPIO

HANDSOFFTHEALTERNATIVEMEDIA

ENDABSCBNSHUTDOWN

WESTILLFIGHTFOR58

STANDWITHRAPPLER

STOPREDTAGGING

Reference:
National Directorate
+639175155991

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[People]Journalism: Most Dangerous Job in the Philippines – by Fr. Shay Cullen

#HumanRights #PressFreedom Journalism: Most Dangerous Job in the Philippines
Shay Cullen
30 October 2020

If you are a truthful, honest journalist in the Philippines that writes and speaks the truth about injustice, political intrigues, and wrong-doing, you could be killed any day and any time by motorcycle-riding assassins. Last 14 September 2020, Jobert Bercasio was riding home on his motorcycle when assailants ambushed him and shot him five times, a hundred meters from the police station. He died on the spot.

Jobert was a reporter and commentator at the privately-run internet broadcaster Balangibog, in Sorsogon City, in the central Philippines. He commented and reported on local political, economic, and social issues and one hour before his murder he had posted a report on his Facebook page about illegal quarrying.

This 2 November, the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists has one more slain journalist to add to its growing list. In the Philippines, impunity still reigns supreme as few suspects are caught and held accountable for numerous murders of journalists and human rights and land rights advocates. The suspects have been promised impunity.

Between the years 1991 and 2020, 85 journalists have been killed in the Philippines, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Impunity is common, few police or military are ever held accountable. It is almost impossible to identify the masterminds and the suspected godfathers behind the death squads. The dead journalists were mostly reporting on corruption, election-cheating, and human rights violations. Some were killed in combat zones, according to the CPJ.

The Philippines also suffered the world’s largest mass murder of journalists. The 2009 Maguindanao massacre of 32 journalists and 23 civilians took 10 years of a court battle to be resolved. They were ambushed, rounded up and machine-gunned to death, and buried in a mass grave. The Ampatuan clan was found responsible and after ten years, the leaders that were still alive in 2019 were sentenced to life in prison. This was a rare occurrence.

The survival of journalists and their families nowadays means writers and reporters have to be very circumspect in their reporting. While being truthful in their reports, they must not offend, harshly criticize, satirize offensively and never insult or accuse anybody in power. Death squads for hire are available and they will kill anybody for a few hundred dollars.

The team of two assassins gets a text with the name and photo of a person to be killed and they agree to be paid by courier. The mastermind is never known. They pull on extra-large face masks against coronavirus, wear dark sunglasses and baseball caps. They jump on their stolen motorcycle and riding-in-tandem, they go looking for their victim. They corner their prey and the assassin on the back shoots the person dead in broad daylight and they speed away. Very few are ever caught, some of the shooters are suspected to be former or present off-duty policemen or military.

The greatest caution is exercised by journalists since the grim warning given by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong.”

A chilling warning indeed. What wrong a journalist would do to deserve being assassinated has never been explained. The most dangerous thing a journalist could do is to write or broadcast insulting or provocative comments. Even mild criticism of a powerful politician or business tycoon could call out the death squad and your days are numbered.

The freedom of speech to publish and satirize provocatively like the cartoonist in France would be impossible here if you were to live another day. The retaliation would be swift, immediate and fatal. Tolerance and restraint by journalists is best to avoid assassinations and bystanders getting killed. The freedom of speech is not absolute.

Strict libel laws in the Philippines make it almost impossible to criticize anyone. The latest anti-terrorist law makes the spreading of “Fake News” a serious crime. However, there are other ways for journalists to write, speak and publish the truth by research and stating the facts in a non-sensational, non-belligerent and accusatory way. They conduct challenging but polite interviews. But even the facts, presented in a factual balanced and respectful way, causes reaction. The truth hurts, they say, so authorities and tycoons warn journalists to keep a lid on it. Some do, many don’t. The well-known and awarded journalist Maria Ressa and the news website Rappler was heavily criticized by government officials and charges were brought against her and Rappler for displeasing the powers that be. Even ABS-CBN, a leading TV network, had its franchise chopped by Congress for similar reasons and the politicians said it was justified. ABS-CBS has devised a work around with another broadcasting company, ZOE Broadcasting Network, and is back on air.

Human rights and earth advocates and defenders have been killed in large numbers. According to research, there were 116 killings of human rights activists on Negros Island from July 1, 2016 to August 27, 2019. Most of the victims were farmers and leaders of farmers groups struggling to defend their land against land-grabbers and mining corporations. Last July 2020, 14 rights workers were assassinated in one week alone.

I share with you a poem in solidarity with all journalists that have suffered injustice and oppression.

The Truth Will Set You Free

“The truth will set you free,”
the great man said.
Who will tell it as it is, those who hide and cower?
Or the journalists brave and strong that risk the consequence of talking truth to power?
They bring upon themselves the anger and the story of the dead,
The jackboot on the door, the beating on the head,
The sudden death by assassins highly paid
by officials whose corruption is their evil stock and trade.
What journalist brave and true can endure the fear and pain,
of knowing that their life’s work could be useless and in vain?
We stand with all those, whose voices have been silenced, barred and blocked,
Innocent journalists, jailed and tortured and who suffer electric shock.
Let all who in safety and in true freedom live,
And have the power to tell the truth and can give
true testimony against evil and terrible wrong,
and with justice and the power of truth overcome the strong.

http://www.preda.org

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[Statement] Denouncing attacks against Jejomar Contawe’s stand as a scholar of taxpayers -The GUILDS

[STATEMENT] Denouncing attacks against Jejomar Contawe’s stand as a scholar of taxpayers

The publication believes that the danger is not the outspoken nature of the youths on pressing issues but the blinding idealism people believe despite of all the evidences of social injustices.

Pertaining to the right to free education approved and being implemented in the Philippine’s state universities and colleges, Jejomar Contawe’s recent post garnered both endorsements and attacks as he stand firm on owing Filipino taxpayers for being Iskolar ng Bayan and not by the government.

Consequently, it is alarming as his post rained attacks from people in the opposition of his stand leaving hate comments, denying his voice and calling him ungrateful for standing against the government.

With this, the comment section is filled with the same incredulous tactic in red-tagging Contawe among many Filipino scholars while being blatant when it comes to expressing dismay and remarks in government’s governance and other societal issues.

It is by strong condemnation that his assertion towards the issue has been taken advantage by people who posted his story on change.org without his permission in purpose of ‘reimbursing the government’s money spent on his education’ thru signatures and fundraising.
It is by fact that the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is enabled by administration as they should as part of their sworn duties. But to take note of Contawe’s claim, the government revenues came from taxes, custom duties, state-owned enterprises, capital revenues and foreign aid.

More to his stand shed light to the hard work of Filipino taxpayers who contribute to the revenues for programs of the government.
The publication stands solidly that youth scholars are scholars of the Filipino people and the country itself. Along with this, voicing out for the minority will and is never an act of terrorism. Let this be a stand for the country’s scholars, students, individuals and activists who continue to speak to uncover the unjust.
#DefendPressFreedom

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[Statement] Defend Our Rights and Freedoms! Hold the Line! -TFDP

Defend Our Rights and Freedoms! Hold the Line!

It was a sad day last June 15, 2020, as we witnessed a legal setback that focused on the perils of being practitioners, believers, and defenders of a free press. A court found Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr. guilty of cyber-libel. Pending an appeal, they remain free on post-conviction bail.

Indeed, these are the worst of times – the rise of populist and authoritarian leaders, the ever-constricting space for democratic discussions and debate, and a global pandemic with no end in sight.

We cannot isolate this latest debacle from the systematic and widespread attacks by this administration on our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Absent martial law, it has used cunningly the law as a weapon to topple down its perceived enemies, remove them from office, detain and hold a senator incommunicado, shut down a media giant and now, convict journalists of cyber-libel.

It has resorted to name-calling, red-tagging, public shaming, and the like to attack human rights defenders, social activists, and all those critical of government policy. It has divided our nation between those who assert a free and democratic society and those who wish a throwback to the dark days of dictatorship.

Are we drifting to the age of kings who demand absolute loyalty and blind obedience from its subjects? Are we prepared to surrender our free speech, free press, right to organize, and right to life, for another round of tyranny?

Read complete statement @tfdp.net

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[Statement] KAISA KA stands up for Freedom of Expression and of the Press and the Rule of Law and Justice as significant pillars of Freedom and Democracy

KAISA KA stands up for Freedom of Expression and of the Press and the Rule of Law and Justice as significant pillars of Freedom and Democracy.

KAISA KA stands up for Ressa, a woman, a journalist, a staunch critic of DU30 administration.

KAISA KA condemns the conviction of Ressa for alleged commission of cyberlaw when the alleged “acts” took place long before the passage of the law for cyber law. The conviction is meant to clip and silence those who fight against the tyrannical, authoritarian, and misogynist administration.

Rule of law is fundamental fairness that binds freedom and democracy. The judicious application of the real essence of the rule of law is imperative considering this impacts our cherished freedoms of expression and of the press and to our treasured rights to information, due process, accountability of public officials, and a transparent, empowering government.

This administration has already owned the executive branch; coopted the legislative. And now the judiciary… a mockery of justice

Freedom of the press and speech stand for freedom of the people. It is the people’s stoutest weapon.

Our constitution and all organic laws of all free states provide that “no law shall be passed, abridging the freedom of the press and that no person shall be punished except for an abuse of that freedom.

KAISA KA believes that it is in the best interest of a civilized society to have a full and free discussion of government affairs and have the free liberty to comment upon the administration of government and guard against repressive measures. We cannot and should not speak in a whisper or with bated breath.

KAISA KA believes that it is our duty to bring to the bar of public opinion the conduct of government officials whose exercise of authority is conferred by the people. It is not only our right. It is our duty.

KAISA KA is one with every woman, every citizen, activist, human rights defender, every freedom-loving people in protest of this attack to our freedom and democracy.
Together, we will not be silenced and cowed.

We say NO to all forms of violence and tyranny.
Break the culture of silence, violence and impunity.

Atty. Virginia Lacsa Suarez
Chairperson-KaisaKa
SecGen-KILUSAN

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[Video] #HoldTheLine -iDEFEND and PAHRA

#HoldTheLine

Online discussion about the implications on press freedom, freedom of expression, and human rights of the verdict against Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr.

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[Statement] A punishment for those who dare to tell the truth -LILAK

A punishment for those who dare to tell the truth
– LILAK Statement on Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos’ Cyber Libel Conviction

LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) condemns the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher and writer Reynaldo Santos for cyber libel. The case made against Ressa and Santos is an obvious weaponization of the law to silence dissent and sow fear in the free press. The conviction is a punishment for those who dare to tell the truth.

Civil society organizations and indigenous peoples work closely with the media in shedding light on human rights violations perpetrated by corporations and the government. Media has been our partner in seeking justice. Rappler has helped us spread stories from indigenous communities to a wider audience.

Ressa and Santos’ conviction, the shutdown of ABS-CBN, and the railroading of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 are orchestrated attacks on dissenters and human rights defenders. These assaults benefit from the pandemic, a crisis the government continues to ignore while it strengthens the pillars of its dictatorship.

Indigenous peoples have long fought for the protection of natural resources and our environment from extractive industries such as mining. Wilfredo Keng is CEO of Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp (CPM), one of the mining companies recommended for suspension by former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez for environmental violations. However, in 2017, CPC passed DENR’s mining audit under current Sec. Roy Cimatu. Reports also show that Keng has significant ties with the Duterte administration. His daughter, Patricia Keng, was appointed member of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) by Duterte in 2019.

It is not the first time that the Duterte administration has favored Chinese corporations over indigenous peoples. It has not been a year since he announced that he will use his “extraordinary powers” as president to pursue China-backed Kaliwa Dam, one of his ‘Build Build Build’ projects which will displace thousands of indigenous peoples and destroy hectares of ancestral lands.

The country is enveloped in fear as the space for dissent narrows and darkens. Indigenous women leaders who defend their rights on the ground carry an even greater fear. If politicians such as Leila de Lima and journalists such as Maria Ressa are imprisoned from speaking up, how will they, who live in far-flung communities with no access to technology and whose names are not known, survive this tyrannical government?

In 2019, the Philippines has been named the most dangerous place for land rights defenders. Indigenous leaders were among those killed.

For indigenous women, fear is overwhelming. Yet there is no choice for them but to carry on.

LILAK, an organization of feminists and women human rights activists and a member of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND), stands in solidarity with Rappler, journalists, and the free press. In a time when our voices are repressed, we must find in ourselves the courage to speak and lend our voices to others. We must hold the line – to press freedom, to right to speak against injustice, to live without fear, and to fight a dictator.

#HoldTheLine #IStandWithMariaRessa #DefendPressFreedom #ScrapTerrorBill #ResistDictatorship

Illustration by Shar Balagtas

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[Statement] FMA denounces guilty verdict on Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr.

FMA denounces guilty verdict on Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr.

Today, 15 June 2020, the Manila Regional Trial Court handed down a guilty verdict on the cyber libel case against online media organization Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa and former reporter Reynaldo Santos, Jr. The verdict is a result of a case that is widely regarded to be the ultimate test of the Philippines’ controversial cybercrime law and is proof of its potential to be be used for impunity, censorship, and to chill press freedom, even now that free speech, expression, and freedom of the press are all the more fundamental in light of a global pandemic. The guilty verdict clearly confirms that all laws – not just the cybercrime law – may be weaponized to silence dissent and prosecute the administration’s loudest critics.

The Foundation for Media Alternatives joins Rappler and the rest of the media community in denouncing this decision and reiterates its stance that press freedom and free speech are fundamental to civil liberty. Press freedom has repeatedly been affirmed by the Supreme Court in a long line of cases, and has referred to it as a “preferred right that stands on a higher level than substantive freedom or other liabilities.” As it is, the guilty verdict already violates this basic Constitutional principle and is found wanting on this preference for such fundamental freedom.

The case is just one among many others filed against Maria Ressa and Rappler within the last two years. It forms part of a well-documented pattern of attacks by this administration and its allies against all journalists and media workers, consisting of various threats, harassment, closure orders, and extrajudicial killings. With the imminent passage of the Anti-Terror Bill, the list of speech “crimes” that can be used against critics of the administration grows even further: adding “inciting to terrorism” to readily-abused crimes such as “inciting to sedition” and evidently, online libel.

Yet even without the Anti-Terror Bill, the administration has enjoyed a wide latitude of discretion to impose its own brand of “terror,” no less than through its imperative to bypass due process and kill “suspected” criminals, such as Kian Delos Santos or Winston Ragos. It has normalized a culture of military and police impunity, and, through Rappler’s case and many others, asserted the dominance of the rule of men – or one man – over the rule of law.

This dangerous precedent (among others already set by the administration) puts not just media practitioners in danger of being charged with libel, but practically anyone who publishes anything online. The Court itself highlighted this in its decision by acknowledging that mere netizens “can be held accountable for any defamatory posts or comments in the internet.”

As FMA and many media groups have repeatedly emphasized, the cyber libel provision is an unnecessary and draconian measure that must be deleted from the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, even as libel itself should be decriminalized in the first place. Be that as it may, the Supreme Court itself has outlined a rule of preference for fines instead of imprisonment – as imposed on Ressa and Santos – a rule of preference not at all considered in the latter’s conviction.

Our previous calls highlighting the potential for abuse of these laws are not unfounded, as proven by the deplorable outcome of this case.

We, therefore, call on:

  • Civil society to come together and stand with media groups in defending press freedom;
  • The Philippine Congress to heed calls for the review and amendment of the cybercrime law and for the decriminalization of libel;
  • The government to uphold and protect the constitutional right of every Filipino to free speech; and
  • The Filipino people to remain steadfast in upholding our Constitutional rights and to continue to #HoldTheLine.

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[Press Release] Rappler Verdict a Blow to Media Freedom, Manila Court Convicts Duterte Critic Maria Ressa for Libel -HRW

Philippines: Rappler Verdict a Blow to Media Freedom
Manila Court Convicts Duterte Critic Maria Ressa for Libel

(Manila, June 15, 2020) – The conviction of a prominent journalist for criminal libel is a devastating blow to media freedom in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said today. On June 15, 2020, a Manila court issued a guilty verdict for Maria Ressa, the founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, and a Rappler researcher, Reynaldo Santos Jr.

The verdict stemmed from one of several cases that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte instigated to stifle Rappler’s critical reporting on the government, particularly its murderous “war on drugs,” which has killed tens of thousands of people since July 2016. In addition to this case, Ressa and her colleagues face seven other cases in various courts for which she has been arrested, detained and posted bail.

“The verdict against Maria Ressa highlights the ability of the Philippines’ abusive leader to manipulate the laws to go after critical, well-respected media voices whatever the ultimate cost to the country,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Rappler case will reverberate not just in the Philippines, but in many countries that long considered the country a robust environment for media freedom.”

In May 2012, Rappler published an article accusing then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona of impropriety for using an SUV owned by a businessman. The article predated the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which includes the crime of libel. In February 2014, Rappler corrected a typo in the story, changing “evation” to “evasion,” thus technically updating the story on the website.

The businessman, Wilfredo Keng, used this “re-publication” as a legal basis to claim the story was covered by the Cybercrime Prevent Act and filed a criminal libel case against Rappler in October 2017. Duterte’s Justice Department rushed to support the prosecution’s assertion that updating the story constituted “continuous publication,” and recommended that charges be filed against Ressa and Santos. In February 2019, the court issued arrest warrants against them.

The Duterte administration in this and other cases have demonstrated their determination to intimidate and shut down the Rappler website. Ressa and other Rappler journalists suffered a withering online campaign using what Ressa called the “weaponization of the Internet” against critical media and citizens. Duterte banned Rappler’s reporters from covering the presidential palace.

The campaign against Rappler is widely seen as retaliation for the website’s reporting on Duterte’s “war on drugs,” which has included in-depth reporting on extrajudicial killings committed by police and police-linked “death squads.” Human Rights Watch’s own reports have corroborated Rappler’s findings. In May the government shut down ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast network, which had also been critical of the Duterte administration.

The campaign against Rappler occurs in the context of worsening media freedom and freedom of expression in the Philippines. Journalists from other media groups have suffered intimidation and attacks online and offline. Recently, the government began targeting social media users who posted comments critical of the government, mainly on Facebook. The government has investigated dozens of social media users and arrested several for violating the country’s “fake news” regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The government should reverse this alarming affront to justice and quash the convictions of Rappler’s Ressa and Santos,” Robertson said. “The prosecution was not just an attack on these individual journalists but also a frontal assault on freedom of the press that is critical to protect and preserve Philippines democracy.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/asia/philippines

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[Statement] Sad day for Press Freedom — Nagkaisa

Sad day for Press Freedom — Nagkaisa

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition is enraged and gravely concerned with the conviction of administration critic Maria Ressa and his former news staff Reynaldo Santos for Cyber libel.

The article subject of the charges not only involved a private individual allegedly defamed but matters of public concerns. Matters involving one of the richest businessmen in the country, a high member of the highest court and some criminal shenanigans — which data were obtained from the intelligence community.

To expose them is not only the right of a journalist but also the right of the public to receive and evaluate.

The decision failed to consider that criminal law has no retroactive effect. The law on anti-cyber libel was not yet enacted at the time the subject article was published in 2012. The publication was a few months before the effectivity of Cyber-libel law. Thus, no one can be convicted of cybercrime when there is yet no law punishing it at the time of publication.

The prosecutors’ contention that a supposedly “republished” version of the story in February 2014 is covered by the law is doubtful and unconvincing to hold on. The defense had a credible witness who rebutted the theory of “republication”. As part of the editorial team, she categorically pointed to the fact that the change made to the story in 2014 was merely a clerical or “spelling correction.” On this ground alone, as there is reason to doubt, the defendants should have been acquitted.

Also, the decision of RTC Branch 46 of Manila is hard to fathom that it did not consider this context. More reprehensible is that its verdict goes against clearly established rules on the prescription of crimes under the Revised Penal Code and the Supreme Court, where it is clear that libel cases should be brought to the court one (1) year after its commission. Rappler’s case was filed 5 years after it was originally published, and 3 years after it was “republished”.

This decision has a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression — particularly so with the impending adoption of a constitutionally infirmed anti-terror law.

This decision can be perceived as just one of the multitude of examples of how laws are being weaponized to go after perceived political opponents. It is worth reiterating that the Philippines is one of the few countries with criminal libel laws, and that the United Nations already pushed for its decriminalization as it described it as “excessive”.

And to think that the Anti-Terrorism Act has not yet been enacted into law. We can easily imagine how the said legislation would trample and disparage our rights.

Press Statement
June 15, 2020
Ref: Atty Sonny Matula
Nagkaisa Chair

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[Campaign] BLACK FRIDAY ONLINE PROTEST #NoToABSCBNShutdown -NUJP

BLACK FRIDAY ONLINE PROTEST
#NoToABSCBNShutdown
May 8, 2020
5pm

Join us in our online protest tomorrow (May 8) at 5pm, contesting NTC’s cease and desist order against one of the country’s largest broadcasting company, ABS-CBN. We also encourage everyone to wear black and post their photos on their social media accounts with the hashtag: #NoToABSCBNShutdown

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[Statement] NTC order vs. ABS CBN endangers welfare of public battling COVID19 crisis- iDEFEND

NTC order vs. ABS CBN endangers welfare of public battling COVID19 crisis- iDEFEND

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) expresses alarm at the cease and desist order by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against ABS-CBN despite the media organization’s application for the renewal of its franchise, which has been filed months earlier without any response from the House of Representatives.

Now, in the midst of a national health crisis where the government is failing to provide accurate, timely, and useful information to the public, the Solicitor General and the NTC attempt to close ABS CBN in an underhanded attack on press freedom. The politically motivated gag order by the NTC spells a serious breach of the people’s right to accessible and reliable information and will result in diminishing the people’s capacity to respond effectively to the national health crisis. Solicitor General Calida and the NTC should be held accountable for endangering the people’s welfare by depriving them of the basic service of mass media. At this time, when the government wants us to supposedly “heal as one”, it must focus its efforts on rallying the forces and institutions which are critical to the implementation of solutions, through rights-based governance instead of rewarding ineptitude, intimidation, and human rights abuse.

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[Statement] on ABS-CBN shutdown NASSA/CARITAS PH

Statement on ABS-CBN shutdown
NASSA/CARITAS PH
May 6, 2020

On May 5, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has issued a cease-and-desist order against broadcast media giant, ABS-CBN, due to the expiration of its congressional franchise citing Republic Act 3846 or the Radio Control Law.

Since 2016, ABS-CBN worked for a franchise renewal, and bills had been filed since then, and many congressional hearings were held until it was overtaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-renewal was further caused by the legislative inaction and weaponizing of power for political gain.

It is very unfortunate that we need to be sidelined by this equally important matter when the nation is battling against an invisible enemy, claiming thousands of lives already and endangering even millions more due to the devastating socio-economic impacts of the global health emergency.

Thus as the social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, NASSA/Caritas Philippines would like to:

1. Express solidarity and sympathy with the employees and their families who would lose their jobs when the network operation stops. We know that this is the most inopportune time for this to happen when people are already in crisis and are suffering.

2. Appeal for the government’s sense of fairness and clemency in applying the letter of the law in view of the common good and to respect the right of the people to have wide access to news and information being provided by the network. Media should be considered a partner in nation-building, and it should not be unnecessarily harassed when they are critical or not towing the line of any administration.

3. Stand for freedom of the press and speech. The government or any political figure for that matter do not have the right to curtail these freedoms safeguarded and warranted in the Philippine constitution. We encourage our government leaders to be brave enough to face the public with the truth, and not hide under the guise of political power, harassment, and intimidation.

4. Pray that in this time of the pandemic, those in position will choose mercy and compassion over personal interests; moral obligation versus legal requirements, and people over powerplay.

The press (media) is considered the fourth state: “the guardian of veritas (truth)” and holds a special responsibility to influence, form, and inspire the public with the truth. The Catholic Church, through NASSA/Caritas Philippines, will and always stand for and with the truth, through love, justice, and peace.

Together, let us heal as one. We are Caritas.

Signed:

Bp. Jose Colin Bagaforo, D.D.
National Director, NASSA/Caritas Philippines

Bp. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D.
Vice Chair, Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace (ECSA-JP)

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[From the web] Lagman: NTC must not be the scapegoat for the house leadership’s dereliction

Lagman: NTC must not be the scapegoat for the house leadership’s dereliction

The National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) must not be used as the scapegoat for the patent failure of the leadership of the House of Representatives to resolutely push for the seasonable renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

There is no other solution to the dilemma of ABS-CBN than the immediate renewal of its franchise now that Congress is in session.

I have repeatedly warned that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s proffered solution for NTC to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate, despite the lapse of its franchise, is against the law and jurisprudence.

Section 16 of RA 7925 or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act” clearly provides that “No person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise.”

Moreover, in Associated Communications and Wireless Services United Broadcasting Networks vs. NTC, the Supreme Court held that “As long as the law remains unchanged, the requirement of a franchise to operate a television station must be upheld.”

It appears that Speaker Cayetano and Commissioner Gamaliel Cordova of NTC were playing charades because after Cordova undertook to grant the provisional authority, the NTC nonetheless issued the cease and desist order for ABS-CBN to stop operations.

The closure of the network giant, which could have been averted by the timely congressional renewal of its franchise, is a flagrant derogation of the freedom of the press.

It could be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte upon assumption to office declared that he will not sign any law renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN because the latter allegedly failed to air some of his paid political advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections.

The President subsequently accepted the explanation and apology of ABS-CBN executives which could have been the go signal for the House to renew the franchise, unless such acceptance was part of the travesty to eventually shut down ABS-CBN for some ulterior motives.

The shuttering of ABC-CBN highlights the verity that the House must exercise its constitutional powers independently and without succumbing to the President’s intervention.

The ABS-CBN is not the only victim of its closure, but also the public who, more than ever, needs and depends on the network’s broadcast information as COVID-19 continues to rampage, as well as thousands of its employees nationwide, indirect workers, and enterprises dependent on the broadcasting network who would lose their jobs and livelihoods.

EDCEL C. LAGMAN

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[Statement] of the EcoWaste Coalition on the Shut Down of ABS-CBN

Statement of the EcoWaste Coalition on the Shut Down of ABS-CBN
6 May 2020

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit environmental health organization, condemns the action by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordering the media outfit ABS-CBN to cease broadcast while the entire nation is engrossed on addressing the myriad of health and socio-economic problems brought about by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

NTC’s cease and desist order is grossly ill-conceived and reprehensively ill-timed as the people — from the highly vulnerable daily wage earners to the heroic medical workers and other front liners — make selfless sacrifices to combat the contagion. It sends a chilling effect on the exercise of the freedom of expression and civil liberties, especially by the marginalized sectors who avail of the service and network of ABS-CBN as a platform to discuss issues of public concern and safety. A shackled press is not what we need to “heal as one” and win the war against this ruthless coronavirus.

ABS-CBN, as countless beneficiaries can attest, has not only provided essential information service during the COVID-19 outbreak, but extended much-needed emergency food assistance to poor and hungry citizens in collaboration with local authorities.

As an advocate of the people’s right to know, we consider the silencing of the ABS-CBN as a severe blow to the freedom of speech and of the press and contrary to the state policy that “recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building.”

Our own experience as a non-profit organization aspiring for a zero waste and toxics-free society bears out the pivotal role of a free press in the pursuit of the people’s rights to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology as guaranteed by the Constitution.

We therefore question and deplore NTC’s contemptuous reversal of the commitment it made before lawmakers not to shut down ABS-CBN and to issue a provisional authority to operate while it waits for the House of Representatives to renew its franchise that lapsed on 4 May 2020.

In defense of the freedom of the press, in the interest of protecting 11,000 workers from unemployment, and for the sake of continuing public service in the time of coronavirus, we urge the government to immediately rectify this injustice and let ABS-CBN get back on the air.

EcoWaste Coalition
78-A Masigla Extension, Barangay Central, 1100 Quezon City, Philippines
Phone: +632-82944807 E-Mail: info@ecowastecoalition.org
Website: http://www.ecowastecoalition.org, http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com

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[Press Release] Put Network Back on Air, Duterte Should Rescind ABS-CBN Shutdown; Congress Should Renew License

Philippines: Put Network Back on Air
Duterte Should Rescind ABS-CBN Shutdown; Congress Should Renew License

(Manila, May 7, 2020) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should rescind an order to shut down ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast television and radio network, Human Rights Watch said today. The House of Representatives, whose inaction on bills to renew the broadcaster’s license led to the closure, should promptly renew the franchise.

On May 5, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), a government regulatory agency under the office of the president, issued a “cease and desist” order against ABS-CBN after the network’s congressional franchise expired the previous day. This came after the government’s chief lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, warned the commission against granting ABS-CBN a provisional extension to operate as some members of Congress had requested. Duterte had said in December 2019 that he would not allow the license renewal: “I’m sorry. You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out.”

“The Philippine government shutdown of ABS-CBN reeks of a political vendetta by President Duterte, who has repeatedly threatened the network for criticizing his abusive ‘war on drugs,’” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Congress should stop ducking responsibility and reverse Duterte’s latest attempt to muzzle the press, especially when the public needs timely and accurate information more than ever.”

ABS-CBN stated that it will challenge the shutdown order in court. Although the ruling does not affect its other platforms, such as cable and online, its popular free TV and radio services stopped airing since the evening of May 5.

While the ABS-CBN 25-year congressional franchise expired on May 4, as early as 2014, members of congress already filed bills seeking its renewal. When Duterte became president in 2016, he started complaining about ABS-CBN, accusing the network of being biased against him and criticizing it for failing to air his 2016 presidential campaign advertisements. The network denied the bias charge but apologized to Duterte for its failure to air the ads and explained why.

The shutdown is only the second time ABS-CBN has gone off the air. Founded in June 1946, the network has grown into the most widely viewed broadcaster in the Philippines. Two days after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972, he ordered the military to shut down the network. After the “People Power” uprising in 1986 ousted Marcos, President Corazon Aquino returned ABS-CBN to its former owners.

ABS-CBN’s coverage of the “drug war,” in which the police and their agents have extrajudicially executed thousands of alleged drug users and dealers since Duterte took office, has won praise in the Philippines and abroad.

The shutdown of ABS-CBN is the first time the Duterte government has forced a news organization to stop operating. However, it runs parallel to other attempts by the government to intimidate media outlets critical of the administration. The authorities have arrested Maria Ressa, the editor and founder of the news website Rappler, several times on baseless charges. Rappler has done groundbreaking reporting on the “war on drugs,” prompting attacks by the government and its followers on social media.

The Philippines’ license renewal process allows congress to put inappropriate pressure on broadcast networks, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body that monitors government compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a party, has stated that governments “must avoid imposing onerous licensing conditions … on the broadcast media. The criteria for the application of such conditions and license fees should be reasonable and objective, clear, transparent, nondiscriminatory, and otherwise in compliance with the Covenant.”

“The Duterte administration is using a back-door method against ABS-CBN as the president’s latest way to suppress freedom of the press,” Robertson said. “Those concerned about public health messaging and the Covid-19 crisis in the Philippines should call on legislators to right this wrong, get ABS-CBN back on the air, and protect media freedom throughout the country.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/07/philippines-put-network-back-air

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[Statement] on the shutdown of ABS-CBN -KILUSAN

Statement on the shutdown of ABS-CBN

Two days ago on World Press Freedom Day, journalists around the world were given a nod of recognition as they continued to uphold the ideals of press freedom and the need to inform the public amid a global pandemic and a political climate increasingly becoming hostile to a free press.

Now, ABS CBN, an institution in Philippine media will be forced to shut down tonight due to the cease and desist order issued by the NTC. It is ironic that the order came at the heels of the stern warning from Solicitor General Jose Calida, who claims to be acting independently from the Office of the President, despite the outstanding Senate and House resolution and the opinion of the Department of Justice that ABS CBN should continue to operate.

Authoritarian Rule and Freedom of the Press

The shutdown of ABS CBN cannot be distanced with Duterte’s personal stake in the matter. He has already admitted as much, regardless of Calida’s posturing to the contrary.
What is even more alarming is how the Duterte government is putting its veritable authoritarian foot on the necks of media establishments, both big and small in a bid to make them toe whatever line may emanate from the Palace.

Surely, a press that is being threatened and browbeaten into submission cannot be considered free – expediency and political compromise will hold sway rather than journalist ethics and truthful journalism.

Fighting the “Infodemic”

Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN) believes that useful, truthful, and timely information is vital in a public health emergency as the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic.
The World Health Organization has described – as a “second disease” accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic – an “infodemic”, which is “an overabundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”.

In the midst of the pandemic, Filipinos have a right to scientific and truthful information and the act of shutting down a reputable source of such, especially a network that has borne witness to the lives and struggles of the Filipino people for decades is unacceptable and uncalled for.

We are calling for swift and appropriate action by Congress to exercising its sole authority to grant franchises to media outfits like ABS CBN, failure to do so will only confirm that the institution has relegated itself to a role of a rubber stamp of the executive branch and choosing blind compliance rather than an independent action to exercise its mandate.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/kilusan-para-sa-pambansang-demokrasya/statement-%F0%9D%95%8A%F0%9D%95%A5%F0%9D%95%92%F0%9D%95%A5%F0%9D%95%96%F0%9D%95%9E%F0%9D%95%96%F0%9D%95%9F%F0%9D%95%A5-%F0%9D%95%A0%F0%9D%95%9F-%F0%9D%95%A5%F0%9D%95%99%F0%9D%95%96-%F0%9D%95%8A%F0%9D%95%99%F0%9D%95%A6%F0%9D%95%A5%F0%9D%95%95%F0%9D%95%A0%F0%9D%95%A8%F0%9D%95%9F-%F0%9D%95%A0%F0%9D%95%97-%F0%9D%94%B8%F0%9D%94%B9%F0%9D%95%8A-%E2%84%82%F0%9D%94%B9%E2%84%95/3245630572158526/

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[Statement] Official statement of the Pioneer on the harassment against UE Dawn’s EIC, Mr. Joshua Molo

We, The Pioneer, the Official Student Publication of the College Department of Divine Word College of San Jose, condemn to the highest possible extent the oppression and harassment made against our fellow campus journalist, Mr. Joshua Molo, Editor-in-Chief of UE Dawn.

We likely condemn any other move to silence dissent and to oppress other campus journalists and publications in executing their mandates of speaking truth and in holding “erring” officials and even the government accountable to the public when so requires.

This is in consonance with what happened last April 5, 2020, after Mr. Molo was summoned to the Barangay Hall of San Fernando Sur, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija for some mediation after “offending” his former campus journalism teachers in his post critical of the government. He was given two options – to post a public apology and stop posting criticisms against the government or face arrest and detention. He opted to sign a waiver, stating that he will stop criticizing the government and was asked to make a public apology after he was threatened with a cyber-libel suit.

We are one with other campus journalists and publications who strongly condemn this suppressive move against the right of every individual to free speech. This is a clear and blatant violation of the Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines: No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

The Pioneer will continue in advancing its mandate of speaking truth and of giving voice to the voiceless. We shall write with truth; we shall speak with truth.

#DefendCampusPressFreedom
#YesToFreedomOfExpression
#ThePioneerDWCSJ

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[From the web] Philippine Authorities Go After Media, Online Critics -HRW

Philippine Authorities Go After Media, Online Critics
Misuse of COVID-19 Law as Dozens Face Probes, Backlash

By Carlos H. Conde
Researcher, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
@condeHRW

The Philippine government is cracking down on journalists and social media users critical of the government’s COVID-19 response, threatening media freedom and the rights to free expression and access to information.

On March 24, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a COVID-19 law that provides the administration funding and grants broad emergency powers to address the coronavirus. A last-minute provision criminalizes the spreading of “false information” with up to 2 months in prison and a 1 million peso (US$19,600) fine.

National and local authorities have used COVID-19 and existing legislation against those critical of the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) initiated legal action against 17 people for allegedly posting “false information” online, an offense that carries steep penalties. Police filed cases against two journalists, citing violations of the COVID-19 law and other laws. Police also brought a case against a town mayor for allegedly “causing a COVID-19 scare.”

Local government officials have taken action against critical journalists. The governor of Cebu province sent an intimidating message to the editor of a campus newspaper for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. Neighborhood leaders in Nueva Ecija province called in the editor of a campus paper to press him to apologize for publishing critical posts.

On Thursday, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno disclosed on Twitter that the NBI had subpoenaed a Facebook user for his critical posts, citing the COVID-19 law. “This has become a concerning trend because it is easy for the government to blur the line between legitimate criticism and ‘fake news,’” Diokno told Human Rights Watch. Diokno’s decision to take on this case prompted President Duterte to publicly accuse the lawyer of encouraging people to violate lockdowns.

The national and local governments are using their authority, buttressed by a problematic provision of the law, to crack down on critics while proclaiming they are simply going after peddlers of incorrect COVID-19 information. Duterte should call on government officials to focus on measures to defeat the coronavirus and ensure that Filipinos have access to information, rather than be deprived of it.

Source: www.hrw.org

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