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Campus journalists decry threats on student who criticized Duterte administration

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Campus journalists decry threats on student who criticized Duterte administration
File photo shows members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines holding a protest.
The STAR / KJ Rosales, File

MANILA, Philippines — Calls for justice mounted Saturday night after the editor-in-chief of the University of the East's official student publication was allegedly made to apologize for posting criticisms of the government on social media. 

According to student-led online publication UE RedWire, UE Dawn EIC Joshua Molo was forced by barangay officials and his former high school teachers in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija to publicly apologize for criticizing the administration's efforts in stopping the spread of novel coronavirus.

RELATED: Transparency needed in COVID-19 fight, not penalties for 'false info', groups say

Online accounts said that Molo was confronted by his high school journalism professors, who were offended by the student's pronouncements against President Rodrigo Duterte.

The same teachers were said to have reported him, after which he was brought to the barangay hall of San Fernando Sur and threatened with libel charges. Police also threatened to "pick him up" if he were to post any similar content again.

"Magandang araw! Ako po ay humihingi ng tawad kina Ma'am Jun Ainne Francisco, Ma'am Rochelle Galang, Ma'am Wilma Manalo, Sir Mel Garcia, Sir Delmar Miranda, Sir Jonifel Ventura, Sir Rogelio Dela Cruz dulot ng aking nagawang pagkamamali gamit ang aking social media," his public apology read.

In a statement released hours after his apology, his publication the UE Dawn issued a statement on its official Facebook page slamming the move and asserting that citizens have the right to free speech under the country's charter, which includes their right to criticize the government.

“Preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression,” the statement read. 

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) echoed the sentiment, saying officials should instead "work on improving a coordinated and sustained public information campaign."

"At a time when our country needs checks and balances, especially when Congress just granted Duterte additional powers despite the lack of concrete plans to solve COVID-19, we need a free flow of democracy," CEGP said.

The instance marks the second time in the past month that student journalists were confronted by public officials for being critical of government initiatives. 

In Cebu, the editor-in-chief of the Today's Carolinian, a student publication in the University of San Carlos, was confronted by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia who invited the former to her office after his publication posted an editorial piece condemning Garcia's formation of a task force for tracking down online users expressing dissent. 

“This so you can further elucidate on what you must believe is your ‘erudite’ opinion about my actions and decisions,” Garcia said in her reply to the editorial.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11440 or the National Campus Press Freedom Act on August 28.

“As part of media, the campus press is an important institution in promoting and protecting the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression,” the law reads.

As of this writing, the Philippines ranks 134th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index of media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. 

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

STUDENT PUBLICATION

UNIVERSITY OF THE EAST

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