The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounces the arbitrary inclusion of Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly and other alternative news sites in a list that the National Telecommunications Commission ordered blocked for allegedly being “affiliated to and are supporting” the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The NTC blocking was done on the recommendation of the National Security Council based on government resolutions designating the CPP, NPA and NDF as terrorist groups.

There was no notice given to the newsrooms and they were not given any opportunity to address the NSC’s reckless claims. It is yet unclear whether they can appeal their inclusion and where they can do so.

Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have existed since the 2000s and have built a track record of reporting on people’s issues. Sometimes, that reporting has been critical of government and its policies, but it is dangerous to equate this with affiliation or support that the government now claims.

Blocking access to these sites leave a gap in discourse and in the flow of information and highlights the threats posed by the Anti-Terrorism Law on the freedom of expression and on freedom of the press.

Of even more immediate concern is the danger that this irresponsible labeling puts the staff and correspondents of the listed websites in.

We have repeatedly warned against the dangers of red-tagging and how the practice paints groups and people as legitimate targets for threats, harassment and physical attacks. This labeling, in the form of an official government document, magnifies that danger even more.

Note that although designation is already an arbitrary power, the National Security Council still found a different way to label these groups without having to provide basis.

It is precisely the threat that the anti-terror law would be used as an all-encompassing tool to run after any form of dissent that prompted the NUJP to also file a petition before the Supreme Court. What we feared, and what the government assured would not happen, has happened.

We call on the NTC and the NSC to reconsider the inclusion of news sites and of the websites activist groups in their supposed list.

We also call on the members of the journalist community, on press freedom and freedom of expression advocates, and on the public to join us in condemning this blatant violation of press freedom and of the very basic idea of the free flow of information and of ideas.