June 23, 2022
MANILA — Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced on Wednesday the order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to block websites alleged by the government to be affiliated with or supportive of the communist movement.
“The National Security Council’s blocking of media and civil society websites is yet another dimension to the government’s outrageous, rights abusing efforts to red-tag and harass civil society actors, including journalists and activists,” Phil Robertson, HRW deputy director for Asia, said in a statement.
“This is nothing less than a brazen attempt to undermine them and censor these media outlets and groups,” he said.
HRW is an international group based in New York City that investigates rights abuses.
The NTC issued the order on June 8 at the request of NSC Director General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. It directed internet service providers to block the website of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing New People’s Army, and the umbrella organization National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and 26 other supposed communist-linked websites.
In reaction, the CPP said only seven websites were actually affiliated with the CPP and NDFP.
The six are websites of local cause-oriented groups, three for alternative news, two for progressive journalists and academics, two for international organizations, two for international alternative news and a news blog, and a blog of Indian activists.
Robertson stressed that the government “has offered no solid evidence whatsoever to back up its claims that these groups work with the communists, let alone are preparing to bear arms against the government.”
“The NSC instead falls back on vague, catch-all weasel words, using descriptions like ‘affiliates’ of the insurgents, to throw a blanket over these civil society groups,” he said.
Robertson urged the NTC to refuse the NSC request.
“The NTC should make sure that press freedom and freedom of expression online is upheld and respected,” he said.