Philippine groups urge UN envoy to probe attacks on journalists, environmental defenders 

January 23, 2024

Groups in Manila expressed optimism that the UN Special Rapporteur would investigate the cases of vilified journalists and environmental activists.

Altermidya Network revealed that it had submitted reports “on the precarious situation of journalists in the Philippines” to Ms. Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Avon Ang, national coordinator of Altermidya Network, said the reports highlight community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s continued detention, red-tagging attacks against community journalists, and the blocking of alternative media outfits.

“We refuse to be silenced in the face of intimidation and injustice. Today, we ring our bells to call for an end to the weaponization of the law against journalists and for the establishment of a safe environment where the press can operate without fear,” said Ang. 

Ang made the statement during a protest rally at the Department of Justice in Manila on Tuesday to demand the immediate release of Cumpio, who has been detained for four years. 

The protest coincided with Cumpio’s 25th birthday and the start of the 12-day official visit to the Philippines by Khan.

Clad with handbells, the protesters drew inspiration from Cumpio’s radio program, “Lingganay Han Kamatuoran,” or Bells of Truth in Waray, as they sought to highlight the unwavering spirit of journalists committed to truth despite increasing repression.

“These bells signify the unwavering spirit of journalists and their commitment to truth in the face of increasing repression,” said Ang. 

In a parallel statement, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment expressed hopes that Khan will investigate “the escalating cases of attacks against environmental and human rights defenders”.

“While environmental activists tirelessly pave the way for a sustainable future by combatting plunder, they face the grim reality of relentless state attacks,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of the group. 

Bonifacio urged Khan to “scrutinize the policies of the Marcos Jr. administration that are contributing to the systemic silencing of environmental defenders”.

Khan is set to conduct meetings with various groups in Metro Manila, Baguio City, Cebu City, and Tacloban City to investigate allegations of attacks against freedom of opinion and expression in the country. 

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