Alternative media groups file complaint in CHR vs state forces for press freedom abuses

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Media groups under Altermidya Network filed a consolidated complaint before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for cases of press freedom violations against the alternative media perpetrated by state forces.

The violations range from red-tagging, threat, harassment, surveillance, illegal arrests, and illegal search and seizure.

The latest case was on July 25, wherein the Bulacan police headed by a certain P/Cpt. Jun Alejandrino conducted a search and seizure operation in Villa Lois, Pandi, Bulacan, and seized copies of the alternative newspaper Pinoy Weekly that were stored in the office of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) in the said housing area.

Local leaders of Kadamay were reportedly threatened with arrests after they attempted to ask the police not to seize the copies of the newspaper.

After confiscating copies of Pinoy Weekly, Alejandrino then made the leaders of Kadamay sign a a waiver which, unknown to the leaders at that time, read that they voluntarily surrendered the print copies wrongfully labeled as “subversive documents.”

This is the third incident in the past months in Bulacan involving the seizure of copies of Pinoy Weekly, with the first incident happening in September 2019 also in Pandi, where copies of the said newspaper were publicly burned by groups that called themselves “pro-government.”

“The relentless targeting of Pinoy Weekly by state forces is not only illogical but also reminiscent of the illegal seizure of publications during the Marcos era,” said Altermidya Network spokesperson and Pinoy Weekly Editor Kenneth Guda. “The seizure of physical copies of a legitimate newspaper is a high form of press freedom violation similar to the martial law years under Marcos, something that we thought would never again happen during our time.”

In its letter to the CHR chairperson Chito Gascon, the network stated that almost all media outfits under the banner of Altermidya have been subjected to vicious vilification campaign by the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict and their suspected agents. “For pursuing journalism for the people, Altermidya, Bulatlat, Kodao and Pinoy Weekly, and our members in other regions have been labeled as communist fronts and terrorists. Such red-baiting has put our security at risk, as some of our colleagues were arrested, detained and charged with trumped-up charges,” it said.

Since 2016, the network has documented over 50 press violation cases including one case of frustrated murder, eight cases of arrest and detention, 28 cases of threat and intimidation, which include surveillance, two cases of physical injuries, and six cases of cyber-attacks.

The filing of cases in CHR is pursuant to relevant laws and international human rights instruments that empower the said commission to investigate human rights violations and abuses involving civil and political rights, including violations of the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press.

“We appeal to the CHR to immediately conduct an independent probe on these cases. We cannot remain mum amid these relentless attacks, and we need to exhaust all means to fight back and assert our constitutionally-guaranteed rights,” Guda said.

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