The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Tuesday, Dec. 7 reiterated its call to junk the Anti-Terror Law, more than a year after it took effect, saying that it is a threat to free speech.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) defines the law as the most recent effort to address the issue of terrorism and allied activities, while at the same time ensuring the protection of the nation’s civil and protection rights.
In a statement, NUJP enumerated the following reasons why the law threatens free speech: its vagueness; the burden of proof; “inciting to terrorism” threatens free speech; it can be used against journalists, and its harsh penalties create a big chill.
“The definition of terrorism under section four is vague. It used the word ‘intended’ to qualify that acts ‘intended’ to cause harm, damage and interference can be terrorism,” said NUJP.
The group explained that the vagueness gives a wide opening for “malicious and overzealous law enforcers” to accuse that any form of expression has an intent to cause harm, provoke, or destabilize the government.
NUJP also stressed that the caveat of section four says that protest, dissent, and any similar exercise of civil and political rights is not terrorism, except if it intends to cause death or serious physical harm to a person to endanger a person’s life or to create a risk to public safety.
“According to petitions, this shifts the burden of proof. When accused of terrorism, the dissenter is forced to prove how he or she did not intend to cause harm,” said NUJP.
Meanwhile, the group also pointed out that section nine, or inciting to terrorism is a “new crime” under the law.
“Under this section, an artist or a provocative cartoon or filmmaker of a political movie can be accused of inciting to violence,” added NUJP.
The group also denounced how the law can be used against journalists and create “a big chilling effect on anybody who would dare speak their mind.”
President Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act into law last July 3, 2020. Meanwhile, it took effect on July 18, 2020. (Charie Mae F. Abarca)