College Editors rebukes state’s intensified crackdown on campus press freedom and democratic rights
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) strongly denounces the fascist state’s intensifying repression of campus press freedom and democratic rights of students. Student publications, being a bulwark of the truth and the people’s democratic interests, have been consistent in exposing and opposing the current regime’s lopsided and ironhanded solutions to the country’s intergenerational systemic problems. As the state gradually inclines to complete dictatorship, student publications are now faced with various forms of repression and threats to press freedom.
The legacy of Duterte’s regime will be remembered as an era in which state-manipulated information thrived, and the right to freedom of expression is suppressed. It will be known as a politically erratic administration that intensified the exploitation of the Filipino people through his platitudes of empty promises, neoliberal attacks on the people’s democratic rights, and state propagandists which served to misunform and miseducate the Filipino people.
Numerous campus press freedom violations, which include surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and red-tagging by state military and police apparatus, have been recorded since President Duterte assumed the presidency.
Last week alone, violations on campus press freedom and democratic rights have been reported to the CEGP. In Camarines Sur, last September 25, The SPARK, the official publication of Camarines Sur Polytechnic College (CSPC)-Nabua, was alarmed that they were part of a “watchlist” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as one of their school officials was informed by a reliable source. Included in the said watch-list are other member publications of the CEGP — The PILLARS Publication of Ateneo de Naga University (AdNU), The Seafarers’ Gazette of Mariners Polytechnic College Foundation (MPCF) — Canaman Campus, and The Stateans Publication of Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) — Main Campus.
This was not the first time that member publications of the CEGP in Camarines Sur were harassed and intimidated by state forces. March of this year, the PNP Baao warned member publications in Camarines Sur in joining any activities of the CEGP, as they maliciously red-tagged the Guild as an organization affiliated to the New People’s Army. After series of confrontations, state forces finally admitted in a live radio interview that the Guild is under surveillance by the state due to its progressive and patriotic orientation.
The state harassment experienced by the student publications in Camarines Sur showcases intensifying state fascism and censorship of the press. The campus press freedom violations shall be viewed as a calibrated attack launched by the state to neutralize progressive student papers that are critical of the tolatitarian rule of the Duterte administration.
Meanwhile, in Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), the school administration plans to create a Student Publications Section (SPS). Currently, no guidelines have been released by the administration, but under SPS, all operations of college-based publications and the university-wide publication, The Catalyst, have to be necessarily consulted and approved by administration. Moreover, the formulation of the guidelines of the SPS has already been pushed by the administration since last academic year, but due to the strong opposition and militance of the Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag PUP (AKM-PUP), the sly move if the administration to take hold of the campus press was successfully blocked.
The desperate attempt of the PUP administration to repress any opposition to its interests was further exposed, broadening its scope and started targeting student activism in general, as it unconstitutionally replaced the current Student Regent by not undergoing the due process, closed and barred the student offices, and intimidated progressive student-leaders.
On another note, in the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), the school’s 32-year old official student publication, The Independent Sentinel, faces threats of closure as the administration planned, without the consent of the members of The Independent Sentinel, to “reorganize” the publication. Once reorganized, its operation will be under the school administration’s full control.
Despite strong condemnation from the students, the LPU administration maintained its repressive stand to “reorganize” the publication. By delaying the application process for new members, removing the publication fee, and postponing the transition of a new editorial board, the administration has blatantly disregarded and assaulted the student’s right to run, publish, and manage an autonomous student publication.
The rampant violations on campus press freedom and democratic rights of the people highlight the fascist character of educational institutions. Universities and other institutions which repress the democratic rights of its constituents are nothing but coercive class-instruments of the state to preserve and advance the interests of the few ruling elites.
Amidst the recent intensified attacks on campus press freedom and democratic rights, the Guild shall maintain its patriotic and democratic orientation. The brutal assault of the state against the democratic rights of the people will not stop the Guild from fulfilling its duty that is to uphold truth, freedom, and justice.
We call on our fellow campus journalists, media practitioners, organizations, and individuals that are for the advancement of the people’s rights and welfare, to unite and combat state-perpetuated violence and all forms of repression that target campus press freedom and the people’s democratic rights. ###