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CEGP files compaint to CHR over increasing campus press violations

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) went to the Commision of Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday to file complaints against the nearly 1000 instances of campus press being harassed and meddled with since 2010.

CEGP deputy secretary-general Regina Tolentino said that campus publications are not free from attacks from their own administrations.

“At this time, student publications are becoming a subject of repression and suppression, especially in the form of school administration’s manipulation that was intensified through the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act or the free higher education law,” Tolentino said.

These violations include harassment and killings, suspensions, withholding of funds, non-mandatory collection of funds, censorship, libel charges, and many others, all of which CEGP says are in violation of Republic Act (No.) 7079, or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

Recently, CEGP condemned the red-tagging of Joshua Molo, a campus journalist from the University of the East Dawn. After writing an article criticizing the government’s response to the pandemic, Molo was summoned to a barangay hall and forced to issue a public apology.

CEGP also recently blasted Cebu Provincial Governor Gwendolyn Garcia after she deployed a special unit to track down individuals who had made negative criticisms against the government’s Covid-19 response. Today’s Carolinian (TC), the publication of the University of San Carlos (USC), responded by making an editorial attacking the use of intimidation by the governor against her critics.

Tolentino said that these violations still happen due to the “toothlessness” of RA 7079.

“Violators think these transgressions are fine because of the toothlessness of the Republic Act 7079… The spinelessness of RA 7079 encourages transgressions because perpetrators know they will never be accountable for said crimes,” she said.

Tolentino emphasized the importance of a free press and its role in informing citizens about the state of things around them.

“Press freedom is important in a society as it becomes the avenue for information as well as it exposes all the errors in the society without any intervention from anyone who wants to silence it,” Tolentino said.

Moreover, she also said that with the distance-learning setup soon to be implemented, these violations will be more commonplace.

“Repression, censorship on social media, and disciplinary actions imposed by university officials will be more rampant,” Tolentino said.

Red-tagging concerns

The deputy secretary-general noted numerous incidents where CEGP and other campus papers were wrongly red-tagged and declared to be linked to the communist insurgency, such as with the numerous statements released by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade.

Despite the denial of CEGP and other organizations, Parlade said that these organizations affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) have used the ABS-CBN shutdown to garner support and have maintained that they have the evidence to prove it.

“The blatant attacks on journalism should never be permitted! Now, more than ever, we are in need of responsible and transparent journalism; if we are to eradicate them at an early stage, what good would it bring us?” said Tolentino.

“With that, let us unite and chant our rights to defend press freedom!” she added.

CEGP said they will continue fighting for press freedom.

“Duterte’s administration has tried so far to silence the mouth of the critics. From the railroaded unconstitutional terror law until the non-prioritization for journalists’ rights amidst attacks show an evident manifestation of a ‘leader’s’ desperate call to throw out dissenters,” Tolentino said. [P]

Photo credits to College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)

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