HRW says Bulatlat website blocking sends ‘chilling effect’ to other journalists
Bulatlat.com’s website is up and running as of 29 August.
The blocking of alternative news site Bulatlat.com by the National Telecommunication Commission’s implementation of its memorandum sends a chilling effect on other journalists and media groups.
This was according to Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch when asked about the non-government organization’s reaction to the stifling of Bulatlat.com, run by Alipato Media Center.
“In a democratic society, nobody should be prevented from publishing or saying anything unless it is against the law. It is our contention that the government over-reached by using the anti-terror law to silence critics of the government such as Bulatlat and the others,” Conde said.
He added, “The long-term effect is that this sends chilling effects on other journalists and groups. The blocking is basically a warning to critics to stop criticizing the government’s policies and actions. This is a diminution of our long-held traditions of freedom of the press and expression.”
The NTC’s order to block Bulatlat.com, along with 26 other news websites, was based on former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s request, citing that the media groups support the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front.
The said alternative news site filed a Petition for Indirect Contempt with the Quezon City court on 25 August against NTC.
Bulatlat.com said that the NTC’s controversial memorandum has “caused irreparable damage” to their constitutional rights as its website remains inaccessible to significant segments of its audiences.
After the Quezon Court granted Bulatlat.com’s plea, the NTC unblocked its website.
“Bulatlat welcomes the apparent unblocking of our website a day after we filed contempt charges against the National Telecommunications Commission. This is an initial victory for press freedom and the people’s right to access to credible sources of information,” Bulatlat.com said.
It added that the unblocking showed the value of fighting back against any effort to muzzle the press and freedom of speech.
The group reiterated their demand for the NTC to nullify the 8 June 2022 memo as it is unconstitutional and arbitrary.
It added, that fighting terrorism should never be made an excuse for state-sponsored censorship.
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