Philippines: Student publication harassed by police

Last week, the official student publication of the University of Eastern Philippines in Catarman, The Pillars, was intimidated by the police on a number of occassions. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in strongly criticize the actions of the police and call for an end to harassment of the media.

The photo is from the student protest on the killings in Negros, the fourth largest island of the Philippines. Credit: Pillar/Facebook

The intimidation began last week, when four men, one identified himself from the Regional Mobile Group in Lavezares, went to the Pillar office and grilled the editor in chief over a candle vigil. The publication had organized the vigil to protest the recent killings in Negros. The men demanded to see the approval for the event from the Office of Student Affairs and asked why they had organized the event.

On August 19, two girls were caught trying to take photos of the Pillar offices. When they were questioned, they said they were sent by a police officer. On the same day the Unversity security informed the efiotr that an intelligence officer from Catarman police warned that the candle vigil could be ‘infiltrated’ and ‘present a threat’ to the campus.

On August 20, armed police personnel were seen outside the Pillar offices to ‘guard against purported threats and chaos’.

According to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), one of NUJP’s affiliate, this is not the first time state forces have entered the UEP campus and harassed the Pillar.

The NUJP said that this is a clear assault on freedom of the press and of expression. 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. NUJP has urged the Pillar to stand firm against these attempts to muzzle them and strip them of their rights.

“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. 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,” NUJP added.

The IFJ said: “The intimidation towards the student press is unacceptable. We believe the future of journalism lies on the hands of student press. We need to support and respect the independency of student publications. Harassment as one of the attempt to silence their works and activities is not in line with the spirit of freedom of the press. We urge the authorities in the Philippines to stop any forms of intimidation against students.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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