Journalist, rights activists arrested in Tacloban — NUJP

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Journalist, rights activists arrested in Tacloban � NUJP
In this file photo, students of the University of the Philippines picket at Palma Hall, calling for an end of repression of press freedom under the Duterte administration.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File

MANILA, Philippines — A journalist and rights activists were arrested in simultaneous raids in Tacloban early Friday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines reported.

AlterMidya said their colleague Frenchiemae Cumpio, executive director of Eastern Vista, was one of the five arrested in supposed simultaneous raids Friday.

Others arrested are known human rights leaders. AlterMidya identified Marissa Cabaljao, spokesperson of People’s Surge Network while Bayan’s Secretary General Nato Reyes said Mira Legion of Bayan Eastern Visayas was also arrested.

“They are reportedly being charged with illegal possession of firearms and are detained at the Palo [Philippine National Police] office,” AlterMidya said.

Cumpio’s arrest came days after she reported to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility “unidentified men in masks” have been patrolling the office of the community newspaper. She also said that unidentified men have been tailing their staff since December.

Calls for release

The NUJP and AlterMidya called for the immediate safe release of Cumpio and the rights activists as they slam the arrest as “attempt to silence” and crackdown on media.

NUJP said Cumpio’s arrest is reminiscent of Anne Krueger of Negros-based alternative media outfit Paghimud-os.

Krueger, who reported on extrajudicial killings in Negros, is one of the 50 arrested in simultaneous raids in offices of several rights group in the island in November 2019.

“Since last year, the government has no longer bothered to hide the fact that the critical media have been included in their list of ‘enemies of the state,’” NUJP said.

“The arrests of Cumpio and, before her, Krueger, the red-tagging of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other press freedom groups and advocates, the continued attempts to shut down Rappler, ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are all part of this government’s efforts to silence the free exchange of ideas and coopt media into mouthing only what it allows,” it added.

Red-tagging is defined by Philippine jurisprudence as “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy... by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’”

NUJP offered support to Cumpio and Eastern Vista and called on independent Filipino journalists to close ranks.

“Let us send out the message that we are free not because anyone allows us to be but because we insist on being free,” NUJP said.

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