COVID-19 Watch News

Student journalist threatened with libel case, forced to apologize for criticizing government

Due to an online post critical on the COVID-19 response of the Duterte administration, University of the East’s The Dawn Editor-in-Chief Joshua Molo was allegedly forced by authorities to issue a public apology on Facebook.

After the barangay received a blotter against Molo, he was arrested by officials and threatened that he might face a libel case after a heated online confrontation with his former campus journalism teachers, stating that they were “offended” by his remarks against the president.

Moreover, despite the public apology posted in his personal social media account, he was threatened that he will be arrested once more if he will criticize the government again. This sparked a public condemnation, reiterating the constitutional right for free speech of every individual.

His own school’s student body, the University of the East University Student Council (UE USC), alongside with the UE Debate and Speech Society, already condemned the said action made by the barangay officials to Molo, as it violates the constitutional right to free speech.

“Ang paghatol at sapilitang pagsasagawa ng public apology ni Joshua Molo sa ilalim ng pamunuang barangay ng San Fernando Sur ay paglabag sa Saligang Batas at pag-abuso sa kapangyarihan ng pamahalaan… Hangga’t buhay ang diwa ng demokrasya, patuloy tayong lalaban sa karapatang pantao na lapastangang nilalabag ng ating gobyerno,” their statement said.

This also called the attention of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), as it was a blatant suppresion of the people’s democratic rights.

“Amid the heightened attempts to gag the people’s right to speech, the Guild and its member publications will never let this pass,” CEGP National President Daryl Baybayado stated.

“Instead of filing nonsensical criminal charges, the government should work on improving a coordinated and sustained public information campaign and immediately deliver economic assistance and services to everyone,” Baybayado added.

Molo’s case was one of the many incidents wherein persons of authority and supporters of the administration arrest and intimidate dissenters airing their concerns on social media respectively, over the span of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) implemented in certain parts of the country.

Also, University of San Carlos’ Today’s Carolinian received intimidation from Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia as she invited its Editor-in-Chief to discuss the article condemning the governor’s action to look after individuals who criticize the government.

It was known that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) issued subpoenas for at least 17 individuals over the alleged spreading of false information that “could endanger public order.” This called the attention of National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno as it will serve as an excuse to the suppression of speech and criticism.

CEGP further explained that freedom of speech will provide a check and balance in the government’s action to address the pandemic.

“It is the decisive role and constitutional right of the Filipino people to partake in a proactive stance in pursuing a just and genuine social reform… Now, more than ever, we need to fight and resist all forms of suppression that trample our right to free speech. We will never succumb to any deleterious pronouncement and threat,” the guild stated. [P]

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