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CHR slams harassment of UE campus journalist: Criticizing gov’t not a crime

/ 05:47 PM April 06, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — “Dissent and expression of grievance against government actions and views are not crimes.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) stressed this on Monday as it denounced the “repressive actions” against a student journalist allegedly forced by his former teacher to publicly apologize over his critical stand of the government.

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Joshua B.  Molo, editor-in-chief of Dawn, the official campus paper of the University of the East, drew the ire of his former teachers from Cabiao National High School in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija after he expressed his criticisms on how the government was handling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.

One of Molo’s teachers supposedly reported him to authorities and allegedly threatened to file a cyber libel case against him if he would not apologize for his remarks. He was summoned to the Barangay Hall of San Fernando Sur in Nueva Ecija.

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In a statement, CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the agency condemns the “blatant disregard for Molo’s dignity and fundamental human rights.”

“Right to freedom of opinion and expression [is] the lifeblood of a democratic society,” de Guia said.

Efforts to suppress “nonviolent expression” could lead to far more dangerous and compromising outcomes, the CHR official warned.

“We reiterate that dissent and expression of grievance against government actions and views are not crimes—but are constitutionally recognized rights,” de Guia said.

“Instead of going after individuals and organizations who articulate their dissatisfaction [with] the government response to the current crisis, addressing the main issues, such as hunger, unemployment, and other pressing concerns must be prioritized. Dissenting voices are necessary and should be given space in order to allow better leadership,” she emphasized.

The commission called on the Filipinos to remain vigilant in defending the freedom of expression while holding the real perpetrators of anti-people policies, not the innocents, to account.

“Instead of shrinking democratic spaces, our collective goal should always improve the way each and everyone’s rights are upheld, guided by the laws that protect them,” de Guia said.

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TAGS: campus journalist, CHR, Coronavirus, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 crisis, Freedom of expression, Human rights, press freedom, UE
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