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Arrest of Manila Today editor shows govât wants to shut critics up, journalists say
This December 11 photo from the Free Lady Ann Salem Network Facebook page shows Salem after inquest proceedings after her December 10 arrest.
Free Lady Ann Salem Network Facebook page

Arrest of Manila Today editor shows gov’t wants to shut critics up, journalists say

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - December 18, 2020 - 12:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — The arrest of an editor of alternative news outfit Manila Today shows that the government is bent on shutting critics up, journalists said in a statement released on Friday.

To them, the arrest of Lady Ann Salem sends a clear message: “Shut up or we will shut you up. We will do it because we can.”

“This is the state and all its might being brought to bear against our rights and liberties in order to whip us into line and turn us into sheep,” the journalists said.

They added that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is now seeking to muzzle all truth tellers as they failed to control the narrative even after the shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN at the hands of the chief executive’s allies in the House of Representatives.

But despite these rampant attacks, the journalists, together with academics, civil society organizations and other concerned citizens, said they are not backing down.

“The only proper response to government efforts to suppress independent voices is resistance, just as it was the only proper response to another dictator a generation ago,” they said.

Salem was arrested on International Human Rights Day following a raid on her residence in Mandaluyong City where police supposedly found firearms and explosives. Six other trade unionists were arrested on the same day in separate raids where authorities also claimed to have found firearms and explosives

Their lawyers insist that these were planted, but Kristina Conti, who stands as counsel for Salem, said the charges filed against them would be hard to fight in court.

“To be honest, it’s difficult to defeat this in court because if the liars are practiced, they can smoothly present their case in court,” Conti told a news briefing in Filipino. “That’s why we need to help each other not just to quash this case in court, but also in the public’s perception.”

Conti expects the prosecutor to file a formal case in court against Salem soon. Meanwhile, she said they are trying to find witnesses and evidence in support of Salem.

The Public Interest Law Center, which also represents the jailed editor, has also requested from Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Villavert the complete documents related to the application for the search warrant that she issued that resulted in the arrest of Salem and the six trade unionists. — Xave Gregorio

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