Karapatan decries harassment of student journalist

Human rights group Karapatan decries the harassment of a student journalist who posted online regarding his comments on government response on the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, April 5, Joshua B. Molo, editor-in-chief of student publication University of the East (UE) Dawn, was summoned by village officials in Brgy. San Fernando Sur, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija for a mediation meeting, following the filing of a blotter-complaint filed against him. The complaint stemmed from Molo’s exchange of online comments with three of his former high school teachers which are critical of the Duterte regime’s inactions on the health crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic. To prevent further exchanges, he decided to cease from replying and has posted a reflection on Instagram instead. In his Instagram story, he expresses dismay on online comments over these critical views. 

At the mediation meeting, he was informed of the complaint filed against him and that the “offended” teachers are willing to pursue a cyber-libel case against him. Molo told Karapatan that he was given an option to voluntarily sign a waiver that he will not post sentiments critical of the government again and that he will issue a public apology, or face arrest and detention. The student journalist opted to waive his right to free speech and afterwards, apologized publicly. He was compelled to film his apology while being harassed and intimidated by the barangay officials. According to Molo, village officials told him that he will be arrested by police if he will persist in posting views not favorable to the administration.

We are alarmed on this incident as it is a case of curtailment of the right to free expression. Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized.