The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines joins our colleagues in the College Editors Guild of the Philippines in condemning the intimidation by state security forces of The Pillar, official student publication of the University of Eastern Philippines in Catarman.
According to the Pillar, the intimidation began early this week when four men, one of whom introduced himself as being from the Regional Mobile Group in Lavezares town went to their office and grilled the editor in chief on a candle lighting event the publication had organized to protest the recent killings in Negros. Among others, they demanded to see the approval of the event by the Office of Student Affairs and asked why the publication sponsored such activities.
On August 19, two girls caught trying to take photos of The Pillars office said they had been sent by a policeman. The same day, the UEP security office informed the editor that an intelligence office of the Catarman police called up warning that the candle lighting event could be “infiltrated” and present a “threat” to the campus.
The same day and, again, on August 20, armed police personnel were seen inside the university campus, just across The Pillar office, ostensibly to guard against purported “threats” and “chaos.”
This is a clear assault on freedom of the press and of expression. Let us be clear about one thing: the CEGP has long been an affiliate of the NUJP, which recognizes the campus press as a vibrant segment of the Philippine journalism community that deserves all the rights and courtesies accorded all our colleagues.
This unwarranted intrusion by state forces into an educational institution also appears to be the continuation of attempts to stifle critical thought and enforce docility among our youth. The CEGP says this is not the first time state forces have entered the UEP campus and harassed The Pillar.
To The Pillar, be assured of our wholehearted support. We urge you to stand firm against these attempts to muzzle you and strip you of your rights.
To the UEP administration, stand up and defend not just The Pillar and its staff but its student community, and insist that government, including all state security forces, recognize and respect the independence and autonomy of all institutions of learning.
To the security forces, your mandate is to preserve and protect democracy, along with all the rights and freedoms that go with it, not stifle. As history has taught us, such abuse cannot last forever. Sooner or later there will be an accounting.