Campus press freedom woes raised amid viral UST’s photo takedown order

February 21, 2024 - 4:52 PM
1866
Photo from TomasinoWeb

An order to take down a campus publication’s photo that went viral on social media has put University of Santo Tomas’ administration in hot water.

The controversial photo published by TomasinoWeb showed students wearing their “type B” uniform outside a convenience store. It gained popularity when online users started to notice the similarities between the College of Information and Computing Sciences’ type B uniform and the uniform of 7-Eleven staff.

UST’s Office of Student Affairs (OSA) subsequently ordered the student publication to take the photo down after it gained online traction, citing that it insinuated “public ridicule”.

Journalist and journalism instructor Leo Laparan II, who has since resigned as TomasinoWeb’s adviser following the deletion order, told The Varsitarian that he and the student media organization were forced to follow as they were threatened by the UST admin with sanctions.

On Monday, OSA has put TomasinoWeb’s social media operations on hold after Laparan’s resignation.

Censorship

Several Filipinos online spoke up against media censorship and brought up the importance of hearing out the student body.

“Complete and utter censorship,” said an X user.

“No one was offended but you. Learn to take a joke. Do you think wearing the same colors of a 7-11 worker is something to be ashamed of?” another added.

Other Thomasian community members online also said that the takedown order has caused the photo to gain more traction.

“It’s very ironic that the UST admin tried to repress this for it to blow up even more. I’m here for it,” the X user said.

The photo has since circulated across social media platforms and opened talks about media censorship.

“At the tertiary level, all student publications must have editorial independence and autonomy. Editorial decisions should not be beholden to any school admin body,” wrote an X user.

“School Publications should be independent from any administration influence and control, this is the essence of press freedom, no bias, just truth in information,” said another.

Some Thomasian student organizations stood in solidarity with TomasinoWeb.

UST Journalism Society defended the publication of the photo and said that it was “nothing but a witty and humorous take on the ‘Type B’ uniform”.

The organization also decried how this incident “speaks volumes about official culture in the university”.

One Thomasian related to the controversy more personally, as they wrote online about their arduous fight to champion students’ rights in UST.

“This has been a very emotional day for me, seeing people speak up and talk about the plights of student organizations. People spent years—and I personally have dedicated A DECADE of my life fighting for students rights in the university,” an X user posted.

Thomasian alumni, on the other hand, released a statement calling for accountability from the university. 

It said that this issue is “a symptom of a much more malignant disease in UST” and is a part of a “systemic problem of campus repression”, which they said needs to “end now”.

Meanwhile, UST Public Affairs said that it is working to resolve the issue.

“With regard to the concerns regarding the student organization TomasinoWeb, collaborative efforts are being undertaken to resolve the matter,” the UST Public Affairs said in an email response to Philstar.com.

Interaksyon has also sought comment from 7-Eleven, tagged in the controversy. This story will be updated with its response.