Joint Statement | End the censorship

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat
On February 5, 2024, leaders of people’s organizations and the editors-in-chief of two alternative news media organizations wrote the National Telecommunications Commission urging it to rescind its order to block access in the Philippines to 27 websites.

The call was made in agreement with and in support of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Irene Khan’s declaration, based on her initial findings from her country visit, that the website blocking is a “direct form of censorship.”

The Philippine Constitution explicitly states that no law shall be passed abridging freedom of the press and expression. Any restriction, Khan said, should be done in accordance with international standards of legality, necessity and proportionality. To date, there is no law allowing any government agency to block websites.

In their letter, the signatories said that “such standards were not met when the NTC issued its order” and that there is no legal basis for the commission to block access to the websites of organizations that have not even been designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

Despite hope, as well as assurances from the government, of wider civic space and of a better appreciation of basic human rights after the Duterte presidency, the letter went unanswered for three months.

The NTC finally responded and, citing advice from the National Security Council that requested the blocking of the websites in the first place, said that it will not reverse its order and will instead wait for the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to decide on the petition questioning the basis and legality of that order.

The letter, which came after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said at a media forum that he prefers a critical press and after the announcement of the creation of a new “super body” on human rights, casts doubt on the sincerity of such gestures and contradicts the government’s claim of a Bagong Pilipinas.

We, the undersigned, urge the NTC to reconsider its decision and call on President Marcos Jr. to rescind this illegal, unfair and unwarranted restriction on press freedom, the freedoms of expression and association, and the right to due process.

Amihan – National Federation of Peasant Women
Anakbayan Maskom
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU)
Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP)
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Davao Today
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
Kodao Productions
National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW)
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA)
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Philippine Press Institute
Pinoy Weekly
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)
Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP

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