By Chito Chavez
During the World Press Freedom Day, human rights group Karapatan, journalists from various alternative media groups and activists from people’s organizations on Friday staged a rally in front of the Department of National Defense in Quezon City to criticize what the protesters branded as “the Duterte administration’s mad slaughter of people and their rights, including the tokhang (knock and plead) of the people’s freedom of expression and right to information.”
Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay maintained that press freedom and the people’s freedom of expression are currently under attack.
She maintained the Duterte regime is “peddling a toxic lie that the full exercise of our civil and political rights is tantamount to a crime; that criticism and raising legitimate demands are criminal acts’’.
“We are here to reiterate the legitimacy of people’s actions and that we will continue to speak, act, and advocate in accordance with our conscience and belief, as provided in our basic, fundamental rights. We do not need permission from governments to exercise our rights, and the latter’s actions to constrict us betray their sinister agenda of stifling opposition and silencing public clamor for justice,” said Palabay.
“State security forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are on a rampage, instigating and justifying extrajudicial killings in line with their murderous campaigns vis-à-vis the sham drug war and counterinsurgency program. Aided and supported by Duterte’s paid troll executives at the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the rest of the government machinery through their so-called whole of nation approach, they are desperately trying to cover-up their crimes by attempting to muzzle free speech and press freedom. How ironic that we are commemorating World Press Freedom Day in the context of increased repression and rampant violations against the freedom of expression,” she added.
Karapatan said that aside from the judicial harassment against Rappler, among the cases of violations against freedom of expression and right to information in the Philippines are as follows:
- The terrorist-labeling and vilification campaign against the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines;
- The well-funded and coordinated cyber-attacks against alternative news sites of Bulatlat, Kodao, Altermidya, and Pinoy Weekly, as well as websites of Karapatan, Ibon Foundation and Bayan;
- The toxic vilification and threats against Karapatan and other human rights defenders, online and offline; and
- Killings and judicial harassment through the filing of trumped-up charges against human rights defenders and activists.
Palabay noted “dictators cannot tolerate dissent citing the dangerous tagging of human rights defenders and journalists as “terrorists” is part of a convoluted and orchestrated effort to falsely discredit groups and individuals, and evade any form of investigation and accountability processes.
“Duterte, his minions at PCOO and officials of the PNP and the AFP are further engendering a climate of impunity in the Philippines, perpetrating unabated human rights violations amid growing opposition to the government’s crimes and anti-people policies,” Palabay said.
“We will not be surprised if the cyber-attacks against online news platforms and websites of activist organizations, traced to a private company, may later turn out to be funded by the government. These targeted online attacks did not come from nowhere, and it is not a coincidence that these have been instigated in consonance with the other forms of vilification and attacks,” Palabay said.
However, Palabay said that a “government’s desperation to cling on to power is measured by the extent of the attacks against sources, documenters, and messengers of facts, evidence, stories, and expressions of political dissent. What it always neglects to consider is the capacity of peoples to fight back and exact accountability”.