Bulatlat raises alarm against gov’t order to block sites of independent media, progressives

“No matter who is in power, we have remained fearless in our truth-telling. We will continue our work while we also consider all legal remedies available to question, and stop yet another state-sponsored repression.”

By TISA NACIONAL
Bulatlat.com

NAGA CITY — Bulatlat condemned the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) latest memorandum targeting alternative media sites and organizations, calling it a “dangerous precedent for independent journalism in the Philippines.”

In a statement released Wednesday, June 22, Bulatlat expressed its shock and rage against the NTC’s memorandum instructing all internet service providers to immediately block access to 28 websites, including Bulatlat.

Bulatlat […] condemns this brazen violation of our right to publish, and of the public’s right to free press and free expression,” the media outfit said in its statement.

The NTC cites in its memorandum a June 6, 2022 letter from the National Security Council (NSC) listing down over two dozen websites “found to be affiliated to and are supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations.” However, the NSC failed to provide basis for the inclusion of several independent and alternative media outlets in their list.

The letter was written and signed by National Security Advisor Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who is also the Anti-Terrorism Council Vice Chairperson.

Following reports that Bulatlat could not be accessed by readers since June 17, 2022, the news site also wrote a letter on June 20, 2022 addressed to the NTC and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) urging them to investigate Esperon’s claims. Bulatlat has not yet received any reply as of writing.

Bulatlat deplored this most recent state-sponsored cyber attack in its statement and called it “prior restraint against protected speech.”

“It is downright unacceptable as it is based on Esperon’s mere hearsay,” Bulatlat said.

The alternative media organization is no stranger to red-tagging and cyber attacks. Exactly one year ago, June 22, 2021, Qurium released a forensic report linking a 2021 cyber attack on Bulatlat to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine military.

Bulatlat called on the public to “stand against attempts to muzzle legitimate sources of information” as it continues its coverage.

“No matter who is in power, we have remained fearless in our truth-telling. We will continue our work while we also consider all legal remedies available to question, and stop yet another state-sponsored repression,” it said in its statement.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines denounced what they call as arbitrary inclusion of Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly and other news websites in the said list.

In a statement, the group said Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have existed for years and have built a track record of reporting on people’s issues.

“Sometimes, that reporting has been critical of the government and its policies, but it is dangerous to equate this with affiliation or support that the government now claims,” the group said.

“Blocking access to these sites leave a gap in discourse and in the flow of information and highlights the threats posed by the Anti-Terrorism Law on the freedom of expression and on freedom of the press,” the group said adding that what’s even more concerning is the danger that labeling puts the staff and correspondents of the listed websites in.

“We have repeatedly warned against the dangers of red-tagging and how the practice paints groups and people as legitimate targets for threats, harassment and physical attacks. This labeling, in the form of an official government document, magnifies that danger even more,” the group said.

Readers can access Bulatlat’s mirror site here. (https://www.bulatlat.com)  (RTS, JJE)

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