Journalists slam Philippine government for blocking 2 domestic news sites

Jojo Riñoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
2022.06.24
Manila
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Journalists slam Philippine government for blocking 2 domestic news sites Demonstrators defend press freedom at Mendiola Bridge leading to the Malacañang presidential palace in Manila, Feb. 14, 2020.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

Journalists working for international news networks on Friday expressed grave concern over a government move to block two domestic news websites, calling the move unconstitutional. 

Acting on a request by Hermogenes Esperon, the national security adviser, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) recently blocked 27 websites including alternative news outlets Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, on suspicion of communist links. The agency also blocked the website of Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). 

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) noted that it was “lamentable” that the government chose to go after the Southeast Asian nation’s “diverse and vibrant” Fourth Estate. 

“A news organization’s legitimacy should rest in the quality of its journalism, i.e. that its reporting is truthful, accurate and serves the public interest,” said FOCAP, which includes reporters and media workers from some of the world’s leading news agencies.  

“Restricting access to a website on the basis of alleged affiliation with parties perceived to be hostile to government contravenes the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution,” it said. 

FOCAP asked NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba to revoke the order and recognize that government policies must take into consideration the “plurality of voices.” 

“Attempts to control narratives and suppress criticism of government policies violate democratic principles,” it said. 

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), meanwhile, noted that both Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly were not notified of the action by the NTC. 

“It is yet unclear whether they can appeal their inclusion and where they can do so,” the NUJP said in a statement. 

“Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have existed for years and have built a track record of reporting on people’s issues,” it said in a statement Friday. 

“Sometimes, the 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,” it said, referring to alleged support from insurgents. 

The NUJP warned that labeling these news organizations as being linked to communist fronts puts their staff members – who might be harassed and attacked – in danger. 

Martin Andanar, spokesman for outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, noted that the NTC order could be appealed. 

“The recent move of the NTC to block certain websites is upon the request of the National Security Council in performance of its mandate,” Andanar said Thursday.

“Legal remedies are available to any party, including online media outfit Bulatlat,” Andanar said.

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