Bulatlat asks court to stop NTC order blocking its website

On July 8, Bulatlat challenged the NTC’s order blocking access to over 20 websites in front of the Quezon City RTC. Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Independent media website Bulatlat has sued the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) over its order directing internet service providers (ISPs) to block 27 websites allegedly linked to communist rebel groups.

In a lawsuit filed Friday morning, Alipato Media Center, which publishes Bulatlat, asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop enforcement of the NTC order.

He also asks the court to set aside the NTC’s order and award him nominal exemplary damages of P1.00.

In addition to the NTC and its commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, the National Security Council and former national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., who signed the letter of demand addressed to the NTC, have been named as respondents to the complaint.

Bulatlat was represented by its editor, Ronalyn Olea, and accompanied by lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers, as well as press freedom advocates from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

They brought with them a tarp that read “Journalism is not terrorism”.

“So sinasabi naming ‘Journalism is not terrorism, and ibig naming sabihin nito is hayaan niyo ‘yung media who won kanyang tungkulin. Hindi narrates terorismo yung paglalathala of ibang grupo na taliwas of nakaupo narrative sa kapangyarihan,” Olea said after the lawsuit was filed.

In their 11-page complaint, Bulatlat asked the court in Quezon City to issue a TRO, claiming that their clear and unmistakable right to publish news, analysis, investigative reports and commentary has been irreparably damaged by the NTC’s order blocking access to their website – a material and material invasion of their right – and there is no quick remedy but to seek a TRO.

Olea said that since their main portal was blocked, the unique audience for their content has decreased by 43%.

Bulatlat remains accessible via mirror sites.

In seeking to overturn the NTC’s order, Bulatlat argued that the NTC had no authority to block websites, as it is not mentioned in the 1979 executive order creating it or in the 1995 law. which designates him as the Principal Administrator of the Public Telecommunications Act of the Philippines. .

“Being ultra vires, the NTC’s order to Philippine ISPs to block Bulatlat.com, the other websites listed in Defendant Esperson’s demand letter, which was an integral part of the memorandum in question, is unlawful. As such, it must be struck down by this honorable court,” he said.

Bulatlat also said the NTC’s order is an attack on his freedom of speech because the website does not present a clear and current danger to justify blocking access to his website.

“Plaintiff has not just committed, is not actually committing, or is not attempting to commit a crime. His website has not been used, is not being used, and is not intended for use in the commission of any crime. “a crime. Nor does it contain incitement to imminent lawless action, pornography, and false or misleading advertising. Nor does it pose a danger to national security,” he argued. .

Bulatlat said Esperon’s only basis for including Bulatlat in the website blocking request is citing 3 resolutions designating the New People’s Army, the National Democratic Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorists.

“The plaintiff is not a designated terrorist entity, furthermore blocking a website is not sanctioned by the ATA as one of the consequences of being designated as a terrorist,” he said. declared.

“Furthermore, the NTC does not have the power, as stated above, to order the blocking of a website of an entity alleged to be ‘affiliated’ or ‘supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations’ without authorization. judiciary,” he added.

Bulatlat also accused the CNT of violating his right to due process by unilaterally blocking his website without giving him notice or the right to be heard.

NTC is also said to have usurped judicial prerogatives by imposing access restrictions.

Bulatlat further claimed that she was deprived of her property without due process and sought exemplary damages from P1 due to the damage to her reputation.

The Bulatlat website was founded in 2001 by veteran journalists and human rights defenders.

Olea said they decided to press charges because other media may soon be labeled as communist fronts.

“We have no choice but to face this head on kasi otherwise, baka magtuloy-tuloy ito, or worse, gawin nila ito sa ibang media outfits,” she said.

Jonathan de Santos, national president of NUJP, questioned the way Bulatlat was included in the NSC list.

“Kung titingnan natin kung pano nila ginawa ito…essentially sinabi lang nila, we believe there may be terrorist links, groups affiliated with or supporting terrorist designated groups. Wala namang process para sagutin kunyari nga websites na nilista… They didn’t even know they were blocked, they had to ask his ISPs and nangyari… Kung walang pushback dito, most likely na ulitin siya uli,” he said said.

Frank Lloyd Tiongson of the NUPL said it was important to prevent a government agency from using non-existent “imaginary power”.

“It’s very alarming from the point of view of human rights lawyers that the national security adviser or any government agency for that matter can wield that kind of influence – I’m not even saying can because no power of this type is conferred on these institutions or offices by virtue of the Constitution or the law. It is to exercise a kind of imaginary power, it is to arrogate to oneself an imaginary power to police the expression and the And it’s very alarming for us human rights lawyers because it’s a slippery slope from there,” he said.

“If they can get away with these actions, it’s a slippery slope. We start with the journalists and then who is next? They would be human rights defenders, organizations, ordinary activists, ordinary citizens,” he added.

Olea and Tiongson are optimistic that the change in leadership at the NSC will lead to a cancellation of Esperon’s memorandum.

National Security Advisor Clarita Carlos previously said she was not in favor of red marking because it is counterproductive.

“Of course, we welcome his statement and hope that this can be translated into action, of course, by rescinding the NTC memo and prohibiting other government agencies from undertaking unconstitutional orders such as this. “, she said, adding that they intended to reach out to Carlos herself.

Besides Bulatlat, websites of progressive groups were included in the list of 27 websites for blocking with the Communist Party of the Philippines stating that only 7 are actually affiliated with their organization.

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