THE undersigned journalists, media organizations and advocacy groups unequivocally condemn the government’s blocking of access to the websites of media outlets Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly and of other organizations on the claim that these are “affiliated to and are supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations.”
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., concurrent Director-General of the National Security Council and Vice Chair of the Anti-Terrorism Council, issued the order to the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) on June 6, 2022. The NTC acted on the order on June 18, instructing Internet Service Providers (ISP) to block 28 websites, including these two news media outfits.
No evidence has been offered to prove the government’s claim. It is clear that the act to block access to these independent news media websites counters the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press, speech and free expression and the public’s right to news and information. The order also effectively removes from the public sphere alternative news and views so necessary in a democracy.
Operated by journalists with unquestioned editorial credentials, Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have been providing news and information for at least two decades — Bulatlat for 21 years and Pinoy Weekly for 20 — giving the necessary space for news and commentary that more often than not fall out of mainstream coverage.
The blocking of these news media websites is an egregious violation not only of press freedom and free expression but also of the citizenry’s fundamental right to information. That right, as enshrined in the Constitution, is best served by a multitude of sources and perspectives that can enable citizens to be aware of and to understand what is going on in Philippine society. Such access enables Filipinos to make informed decisions about issues that affect their lives. Such informed citizens can participate in the process of identifying possible solutions to shared problems confronting the nation.
This most recent attack on freedom and free expression has been part of an escalating pattern of harassment of media organizations and individual journalists. Military and police agencies working against the communist insurgency have routinely “red-tagged” journalists and their organizations, a pernicious practice that exposes those working in the media to physical danger, including threats and attacks to life and livelihood.
We urge the government to rescind the June 6, 2022 order as it violates the Constitution. The Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 also contains no provision for blocking public access to news and information. The action of the NSC and the NTC can only be understood as prior restraint.
We call on everyone, not just journalists and members of the media, to stand in solidarity with Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, which, in the many years of their existence and in the best traditions of journalism, have demonstrated their commitment to provide alternative news and views to allow a faithful accounting of the state of the nation.
That these have been done according to the exacting standards journalism should be praised instead of punished.
FREEDOM FOR MEDIA, FREEDOM FOR ALL NETWORK
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Philippine Press Institute
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism