Artists, freedom of expression advocates face greater challenges under Duterte admin

“The recent pull-out of a movie referencing Duterte’s sham drug war and rights violations in a film festival and the suspension of the Twitter account for a musical production that shows the struggles during the Marcos martial law period are the most recent examples of the challenges faced by artists and freedom of expression advocates under the Duterte administration. These are insidious manifestations of the worsening climate of impunity and closing space for the people’s exercise of our right to information and freedom of expression,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

The film “Walang Kasarian ang Digmaang Bayan,” directed by Joselito Altarejos, was reportedly removed as an official entry to the 2020 Sinag Maynila Film Festival. Freedom of expression advocates alleged that the film’s removal is a form of censorship on the film’s depiction of social realities, while the Twitter account of the musical “Dekada ‘70” was suspended days before its next round of shows.

The said events, Palabay said, followed a string of attacks on artists, journalists and freedom of expression advocates under the Duterte administration. This includes, among others, the threats against filmmakers and artists depicting the horrors of Marcosian martial law and human rights violations under the Duterte administration such as terrorist-tagging and threats of fabricated charges; killings and judicial harassment of journalists reporting on rights violations; and threats on the non-renewal of franchise and attempts to shut down ABS-CBN.

“We are one with the artists and freedom of expression advocates who uphold the people’s right to information, including the right to be informed on the critical views, expressions, portrayals and analysis of the current human rights situation. We enjoin those who uphold civil liberties and people’s rights to remain vigilant and to fight back against such forms of silencing of creative and political dissent,” Palabay concluded.