Before PH visit, UN rapporteur urged to probe 'systemic attacks' vs journos | Global News

Before PH visit, UN rapporteur urged to probe ‘systemic attacks’ vs journos

/ 01:47 PM January 16, 2024

Human rights defenders on Tuesday called on a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur to investigate the "systemic attacks" on people's organizations and journalists in the country.

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, arrives to a press conference in Tegucigalpa, on October 27, 2023. (Photo by Orlando SIERRA / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines  — Human rights defenders on Tuesday called on a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur to investigate the “systemic attacks” on people’s organizations and journalists in the country.

This call was made a week before the official visit of UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan who will be in the country from January 23 to February 2.


In a press briefing at Quezon City, rights defenders mentioned that some 36 national and international organizations have already submitted to Khan verified reports on violations of freedom of opinion and expression in the country.


According to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), Khan must see that the state of press freedom under President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ administration has not improved since the time of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We already have 109 documented attacks against journalists. This is made up of different forms of harassment, cyberattacks, intimidations,” NUJP Secretary-General Metro Manila Chapter Paul Soriano said in a mix of Filipino and English.

He added that this figure is 47 percent higher than the attacks on media under the previous administration during the same period.

“Those are only the documented ones; we have heard of more harassment occurring in the regions, but they don’t end up being reported,” Soriano continued.


Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), for its part, said that Khan must look into the reported harassment of progressive groups online, citing numerous cyber attacks and censorship allegedly perpetrated by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).


According to the group’s Secretary-General Raymond Palatino, Bayan’s own website was blocked by the NTC for supposedly promoting terrorist activities.

“Our website was blocked without giving us due process, without giving us the chance to dispute the claims of the government,” Palatino said.

He likewise lamented how social media platforms seem to make sweeping removals of their content without considering local context and history.

READ: UN rapporteur to PH: Repeal anti-terror law, abolish anti-communist task force

In a statement, Bayan attributed the online censorship to the Anti-Terror Law which the group has repeatedly condemned for being a pass for government agencies to tag organizations as “terrorists” or “sympathizers” without providing evidence.

The rights defenders also pointed out that workers’ unions and progressive groups in the country are still being labeled as “reds,” which poses a threat to their safety.

Khan is expected to collaborate with the Department of Justice, the Commission on Human Rights, and government media agencies including the Presidential Communications Office, among others.

Prior to Khan’s visit, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights in the context of climate change Ian Fry also traveled to the Philippines in November last year.

But Fry’s suggestions based on his findings, particularly on the abolishment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), were scoffed at by several government officials.

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National Youth Commission Chairperson Ronald Cardema even suggested that Fry be declared “persona non grata” due to his comments on the NTF-ELCAC.

TAGS: UN, UN rapporteurs

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