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CHR alarmed over NTC censorship of websites

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
CHR alarmed over NTC censorship of websites
“The CHR expresses grave concern on the move of the NTC based on the request of the National Security Council, to block access to the websites of organizations designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), as well as those said to be affiliates who also have alleged links to terrorists and terrorist organizations,” CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a press statement.
Pixabay / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is gravely concerned over the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)’s move to block public access to websites of several organizations tagged as affiliated with communist groups.

“The CHR expresses grave concern on the move of the NTC based on the request of the National Security Council, to block access to the websites of organizations designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), as well as those said to be affiliates who also have alleged links to terrorists and terrorist organizations,” CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a press statement.

In an order dated June 8 and released last June 22, the NTC directed internet service providers to block public access to over 20 websites of alternative media outfits, academic publishers, and activist groups which were identified by the ATC as supposedly linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.

The order was issued upon the request of former national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

De Guia said the NTC’s move curtails the people’s right “to access accurate information” which allows them to make informed decisions and participate in different affairs, including governance.

“We caution against censorship or any move similar to it, which harms press freedom and results in a chilling effect that attempts to deter free speech and liberty of association under a democracy,” De Guia added.

CHR on Rappler

In a separate development, the CHR also expressed concern over the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the operating license of online media outfit, Rappler.

“CHR, as the country’s independent national human rights institution, continues to stress the importance of the people’s right to information and to free speech, expression, and association. As long as an individual’s exercise of right is not in violation of the law or the rights of others, any form of curtailment is undue and unjust,” De Guia said.

“Democracy thrives on the free exchange of ideas, including dissent and opposing opinions, that allows everyone to participate in shaping laws and policies for the general welfare of the people,” she said.

In its order dated June 28, the SEC has upheld its Jan. 11, 2018 decision ordering the shutdown and revocation of the certificate of incorporation of Rappler Holdings Corp. (RHC) and its online arm Rappler.

The SEC reiterated its earlier position that RHC violated the constitutional and statutory restrictions against foreign equity on mass media when it issued Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) which granted the foreign firm Omidyar Network control over a local media organization.

Rappler, however, can still file a motion for reconsideration on the SEC’s order and continue its operations while the appeal is pending.

The CHR appealed to the new administration to always uphold human rights, including the rights to dissent and free speech.

Rappler ready to go to SC

Rappler said it has appealed the shutdown order and is ready to bring to the Supreme Court (SC), if necessary, the SEC decision affirming its earlier order revoking the online news site’s certificates of incorporation.

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News channel last Wednesday night, Rappler’s chief legal counsel Francis Lim said they asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to overturn SEC’s decision ordering the shutdown of the media organization.

“The order of the SEC is not immediately final and executory. Under the rules, we have 15 days to question this order of the SEC with the Court of Appeals,” Lim said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Lim said among the issues that they would raise to the appellate court is SEC’s supposed violation of their right to due process.

“We were not given due process. They should have taken our side, we should have been given the chance to explain that the donation (of Omidyar’s PDRs) cured everything,” he said. – Janvic Mateo, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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