Media groups challenged the Philippines’ justice department to lead a thorough review and advocate for repealing laws used to intimidate journalists and human rights defenders.
In a statement issued on Feb. 7, the groups called for the abolition of Anti-Terrorism Law and other repressive policies, highlighting “immediate and decisive action” from authorities.
Signatories in the statement were Raymund Villanueva of Altermidya Network, Jonathan De Santo of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and John Ray Luciano of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.
The release of the statement coincided with the fourth anniversary of the Tacloban City raids that led to the arrest of four human rights advocates and community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio.
The groups expressed “profound concern” over the prolonged detention of Cumpio, noting that she is the only journalist remaining in prison in the country, “a fact that severely tarnishes the country’s commitment to press freedom”.
The plea came nearly a week after the official visit of Ms. Irene Khan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression and opinion.
During her ten-day visit, Ms. Khan personally visited the detainees in Tacloban City Jail and advocated for prompt action.
“As justice delayed is justice denied, I urge relevant authorities to either review the cases and dismiss the charges, or at a minimum expedite the trials with full due process,” Khan said in her social media post.
In the letter, the groups called for an impartial and thorough investigation into “the weaponization of laws” against journalists and critics.
They also urged the promotion of press freedom, emphasizing the need for protection against attacks on journalists.
The [justice department] can demonstrate the Philippines’ genuine commitment to upholding human rights and freedom of expression by addressing these concerns,” the groups said.