‘Chilling effect’: Student publications slam troll attacks, censorship on Joma Sison death coverage

January 6, 2023 - 5:52 PM
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Members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines protest to defend press freedom in Mendiola, Manila on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 (Kriz John Rosales)

Campus press condemned the attacks and online censorship against their publications for their reports about the death of the Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison. 

RELATED: CPP founder Joma Sison dies, 83

College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)UP Solidaridad, and Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag ng PUP said they “stand in solidarity with all campus publications and media outfits as we continuously fight against all forms of media repression.”

Red-baiting

Among those who are subject to these attacks is SINAG, the student publication of the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. 

CEGP reported that SINAG was mobbed and red-baited by trolls and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) over their articles and social media posts about Sison and underground youth group Kabataang Makabayan. 

The alliance of tertiary student publications said that “NTF-ELCAC Deputy Director for Operations Mario Jose Chico baselessly associated the publication with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.

CEGP also said that former NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson Lorraine Badoy “shared and maligned the news report on her page, attracting more attention from trolls.”

In 2020 and 2021, SINAG was also red-baited by NTF-ELCAC because of their articles that expose the bombings of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Mindanao which targeted Lumad communities, CEGP said. 

Facebook take down 

Meanwhile, UP Manila’s student publication The Manila Collegian reported that they were flagged by Facebook because of their coverage of the tribute program for Sison. 

The following day, the post of The Catalyst, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines‘ official publication was also removed. The post also features a photo of the same program covered by The Manila Collegian. 

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno also had a similar experience before Facebook removed them from the social media platform without warning. 

It said that the social media giant removed their posts related to Sison for violating Community Standards. 

RELATED: Kilusang Mayo Uno says Facebook page taken down without warning

Campus press freedom

Following these experiences, the student publications said they strongly condemned online censorship, red-tagging, and state-sponsored troll attacks against these campus media outfits.

“We condemn in strongest terms these renewed attacks against SINAG, The Manila Collegian, and The Catalyst and their patriotic and democratic brand of campus journalism. We see these attacks as desperate moves that cast a chilling effect on the exercise of campus press freedom,” CEGP said.

They also decried Meta’s community standards for “censoring progressives.” 

“We also denounce Meta’s arbitrary community standards which are used to censor progressives, as well as the platform’s contribution and role to the proliferation of disinformation, fake news, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and other harmful contents, capitalized by the ruling elite to their interests,” the group said. 

CEGP said that these attacks are “desperate moves that cast a chilling effect on the exercise of campus press freedom.”

“As part of the alternative press, we deem it fit to cover these activities to raise consciousness about the ongoing civil war between the state and the revolutionaries in the hopes of addressing the root causes of armed conflict and achieving just and lasting peace,” the alliance of tertiary student publications added. 

“For only in democracy does truth thrive, for only tyranny does truth shamble,” CEGP concluded.