“Perpetrated by the state, the attacks are tantamount to content-based prior restraint and censorship”
By DANIEL ASIDO and ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – In an effort to highlight the attacks against press freedom in the international community, alternative media groups have submitted their complaints to experts from the United Nations on Friday, Nov. 11, in Geneva Switzerland.
This, as the United Nations Human Rights Council is set to hold its universal periodic review of the human rights situation in the Philippines on Monday, Nov. 14.
Bulatlat and Pinoy Media Center (PMC), publisher of Pinoy Weekly, through the Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch submitted the complaints to the office of UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defender Mary Lawlor.
The Philippine UPR Watch is a network of church and human rights organizations who are currently in Geneva to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council review on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
In its letter to Lawlor, the alternative media outfits stated that then National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon ordered the blocking of their website and 25 others.
Bulatlat’s website is accessible as of this writing after the court granted its preliminary injunction filed against the blocking by the National Telecommunication Commission.
The other 26 websites, including Pinoy Weekly’s website, however, remain inaccessible in the Philippines.
Media groups also stated that its website has been subjected to continued cyber-attacks since 2018.
The website www.pinoyweekly.org had also been hacked between November 17 and 18, 2021, the PMC said.
PMC also added that members of the Philippine Army and the Bulacan Philippine National Police confiscated and burned copies of Pinoy Weekly’s print editions three times between September 5, 2019 and July 25, 2020 in Pandi, San Jose del Monte City and Norzagaray.
“Enforcing restrictions to access our website does not only violate our rights to freedom of the press, speech and free expression, which are guaranteed under the Philippine Constitution,” said PMC executive director Angela Colmenares in a statement.
The country’s longest running alternative media outfit, Bulatlat, also stated that aside from the blocking order, its website was subjected to incessant cyber-attacks using the Department of Science and Technology infrastructure assigned to the Philippine Army.
Bulatlat managing editor Ronalyn Olea said that state-sponsored attacks have been violating fundamental human rights of media workers through its censorship and harassment through the use of government agencies.
“Perpetrated by the state, the attacks are tantamount to content-based prior restraint and censorship,” Olea said.
The Philippine UPR Watch also submitted a report on academic freedom developments in the Philippines by the Scholars at Risk Network.
The group said that the attacks and pressures on academic freedom escalated during the transition between the administration of Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. These include threats of red-tagging, legislated anti-terrorism policy, and censorship that undermine academic freedom and freedom of expression, the report read.
The report also cited the killing of two volunteer teachers of indigenous peoples’ schools in February this year and the red-tagging of former Ateneo School of Law Dean Antonio La Viña by none other than former anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy.
There are also threats to academic freedom in the Philippines, the report read. This includes the censorship of books in libraries of state universities by the Commission on Higher Education and the banning of the publication of books by the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, an attached agency of the Office of the President. (RTS,RVO)