2 April 2020

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounces the criminalization of free speech and expression by the National Bureau of Investigation as disclosed by human rights lawyer Chel Diokno.

News reports quoted Diokno as saying he had taken on the case of a netizen who had been subpoenaed by the National Bureau of Investigation to appear before its Cybercrime Division to explain a Facebook post “concerning an alleged misused (sic) of government funds,” which supposedly violated Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, or the “unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances.” And subsequent reports said the NBI had sent subpoeanas to the owners of 27 social media accounts they were monitoring for supposedly spreading fake news about the health crisis.

We agree with Diokno’s contention that ‘di na makatao ang nangyayari. Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain.’

Democracy can only thrive amid the free exchange of and respect for ideas and opinions, including those we may vehemently disagree with.

That ordinary citizens may now find themselves summoned by law enforcement and ordered to explain their sentiments and statements will certainly send a chilling message: “Speak at your own risk.”

And it is but a short step from this to targeting critical reporting and commentary.

As we have said time and again, in times of crisis, MORE, not less, independent journalism is needed. The same goes, if not more so, with free speech and expression.

This is no longer media’s fight alone. This should be everyone’s cause. Every voice we allow to be silenced is one voice closer to our own.

National Directorate