Groups slam NTC order to block websites linked to terror organizations
MANILA, Philippines — Several groups and alternative media organizations on Wednesday condemned the order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to block websites tagged as affiliates or supporters of terror organizations.
In separate statements on Wednesday, the party-list group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya and online alternative media Bulatlat slammed the order of NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba for internet service providers to block their respective websites on the request of National Security Council (NSC) advisor Hermogenes Esperon.
Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. called the move a “blatant attack on free speech.”
“The NSC and NTC orders to block websites including independent media and progressive groups such as Bayan are a blatant attack on free speech,” Reyes said.
“The orders show how arbitrary the use of terrorist-labeling and red-tagging have become. The orders to block certain websites are devoid of any due process and rely merely on guilt by association,” he added.
Reyes also urged incoming National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos to revoke the order.
Pamalakaya called the government’s move “desperate.”
“We denounce this attack against the public’s freedom of information and speech,” Pamalakaya said. “This desperate move comes from Duterte’s security cluster, headed by red-tagger Esperon.”
The fishers’ group noted that the majority of the contents of their website are updated on the plight and struggles of Filipino fishers in the West Philippine Sea, as the group has been critical of the government’s defense sector to protect our territory and fishers from Chinese incursion.
“Esperon lobbying to have our website blocked is an admission of guilt that the security cluster, that is mandated to secure our sovereignty, has been inutile to do so,” the group also said.
Bulatlat said the move was “downright unacceptable,” as it expressed alarm that the action “sets a dangerous precedent” for independent journalism in the country.
“This is prior restraint against protected speech. It is downright unacceptable as it is based on Esperon’s mere hearsay,” Bulatlat said of the order.
“We raise the alarm that such arbitrary action sets a dangerous precedent for independent journalism in the Philippines,” the organization added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also denounced what they called the “reckless” move to block Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, and other alternative news sites.
“There was no notice given to the newsrooms and they were not given an opportunity to address the NSC’s reckless claims. It is yet unclear whether they can appeal their inclusion and where they can do so,” NUJP said.
NUJP also called on the NTC and the NSC to reconsider the inclusion of the said news sites in their supposed list.
“Sometimes, that reporting has been critical of the government and its policies, but it is dangerous to equate this with affiliation or support that the government now claims,” NUJP said.