Issue of October 11, 2020
     
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Drop the cyberlibel case against a community journalist
CHRISTEL JANELA BAPTISTA, CEGP Baguio-Benguet coordinator

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet strongly condemns the “legal harassment” of the Police Regional Office Cordillera over Northern Dispatch (Nordis) journalist and former CEGP Baguio-Benguet coordinator Khim Abalos.

The cyberlibel case against Abalos was filed by the Office of the Prosecutor of Benguet before the Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 59 on Sept. 23 with PRO-Cor Director B/Gen. R’win Pagkalinawan as the primary complainant.

An earlier legal case was filed by PRO-Cor against Nordis Editor-in-Chief Kimberlie Quitasol, Abalos, and human rights group Karapatan on June 29. Pagkalinawan has cited the violation Article 154 (1) of the Revised Penal Code concerning Proclamation 929 (Declaration of a state of emergency in the country due to Covid-19) and Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Law upon Nordis’ publication of articles related to Pagkalinawan’s infamous “shoot to kill order” against “communist organizers who unnecessarily organized people during the Luzon-wide lockdown.” The case was earlier dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction.

This harassment against community journalists is a direct attack against press freedom.

Nordis and other mainstream media organizations in the country are undeniably hard target of persecution, vilification, and intimidation for the past months. As the fourth estate, the press plays a critical role in narrating truth and stories relevant to the people.

Abalos and the rest of the Nordis staff have been red-tagged for the past months. Abalos was included in massive online smear campaign against activists and his face included in tarpaulins tagging youth leaders as “rebels” in various places in Baguio and Benguet last July.

CEGP Baguio-Benguet, being the sole and largest alliance of student publications in Baguio, calls for the immediate dropping of the cyberlibel charge against Abalos.

Libel, for the longest time, has been used by state forces to legally harass and repress our freedom of expression and silence critical minds. The case filed against Abalos is a direct threat aiming to create a chilling effect against journalists and media organizations.

Now more than ever, the press is challenged to be more critical – to speak truth to power.

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