Stop the attacks on free expression, release Altermidya Panay journalists!

STATEMENT

The Altermidya Network, together with independent journalists nationwide, demands the immediate release of seven Altermidya correspondents in Panay arrested on May 1.

Our colleagues from Dampig Katarungan, Panay Today, and Panaysayon— all member outfits of the Altermidya Network— were among the 42 arrested during a protest caravan in Iloilo City. The protesters, led by Bayan Panay, expressed their condemnation of the brutal killing of known Panay activist Jory Porquia on April 30.

The seven journalists— Bryan Bosque and Crimson Labinghisa of Dampig Katarungan, Mace Sulayao, Kervin Bingansinco, Krisma Nina Porquia, Gaybel Rei Gullen of Panaysayon, and Julrod Prino of Panay Today — were covering the indignation rally when the Iloilo City PNP blocked and arrested the protesters.

They were brought to the Jaro Police Station and charged with violation of Batas Pambansa 880, Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, among others.

The incident in Panay is only one of the six separate cases of arrests around the country on Labor Day that involved 92 individuals. This is a clear demonstration of how the people’s right to free expression is being systematically repressed under the Duterte administration.

Like the many previous cases of arrests, the COVID-19 pandemic has again been used as a convenient excuse to further curtail our fundamental rights. Instead of addressing the pandemic and assisting the millions of Filipinos affected by COVID-19, the government is wrongly using its time and resources to suppress the legitimate rights of the people.

We strongly denounce the detention of our seven colleagues, who were arrested just days before the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day. The rising attacks against the media have been alarming under the Duterte administration, and it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has only given it more pretext to suppress press freedom.

The list of attacks against the independent media is growing. Since early April, the website of Baguio-based alternative media outfit Northern Dispatch has been suffering vicious cyberattacks, forcing it to shut down for a few hours. Correspondents of Northern Dispatch and Pokus-Gitnang Luzon have also been rigorously red-tagged and harassed by the military and police. Just two weeks ago, relief volunteers were charged with sedition in Bulacan because they had in possession copies of alternative newspaper PinoyWeekly. And, until now, our colleague Frenchie Mae Cumpio from Eastern Visayas remains detained in Tacloban after her unlawful arrest in February.

In this time of crisis, asserting our right to free expression is crucial. During these dark times, our voices need to be heard, not stifled. We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to join us in demanding for the immediate release of our colleagues and others arrested on Labor Day, and in asserting our invaluable right to free expression.

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