Rights group vows legal aid for student journalist

HUMAN rights watchdog Karapatan has vowed to provide legal assistance to a student journalist who was threatened with cyber libel charges by his former teachers for airing criticisms against the government over its response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.

Jose Mari Callueng, a member of the national council of the group, said several lawyers have offered to help Joshua Molo, editor-in-chief of the University of the East publication Dawn, whose former teachers threatened to file a cyber libel case against him.

Callueng said Molo earlier told them he could not afford a lawyer.

This was why Molo agreed to issue a public apology to his former teachers, who were “offended” by his anti-government statement over the handling of Covid-19 pandemic.

"These teachers actually manifested their support for the president and they were offended by Joshua criticizing the president. Ito 'yong tingin kong sinasabi nila, they were offended by this post, mas lalo silang naoffend nung pinost ni Joshua 'yong kanilang naging reactions towards his post. 'Yun 'yong sina-cite allegedly ng mga teachers niya why they were offended and why they were compelled to this blotter against him," Callueng said in a television interview.

"He actually issued [the apology] right away because he said he could not afford a lawyer at that time... The height of all irony, 'yong nag-require o nag-demand ng kanyang public apology ay sila rin 'yong nag-demand na i-takedown 'yong apology hours after it gathered support and viral already," he added.

Earlier, in an exchange of messages, Molo was called out by his former teachers at the Cabiao National High School in Nueva Ecija over his anti-government posts amid the enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon.

Instead of being silenced by his former teachers, who according to Molo taught him about journalism and writing, Molo posted on Instagram.

“Some of my former high school and Elem (elementary) teachers said I should listen to them. That I should acknowledge the government’s efforts and just follow the,” he wrote.

“Di na yata nila ako kilala. Or they are just privileged enough not to see what other people are experiencing. Sabagay puno naman ‘yung refs nila at may sweldo sila despite the pandemic. ‘Yung pamilya ko wala. I spent more that half of my saving already, so don’t tell us na masyado pa kaming bata. Baka masyado lang kayong okay na sa buhay niyo, kasi may nakakain kayo everyday,” he added.

He also called out his teachers for lack of comprehension.

“Sweldo (salary), savings, ref. Of all I have stated last time, this is what they had picked up. What’s up reading comprehension?” he said.

Molo was summoned to the barangay in the said province after one of the teachers lodged a complaint.

Molo said the teacher threatened to file a cyber libel case if he will not issue a public apology to them.

He said the teacher had already sought assistance from the local Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Unit.

“I was asked either itutuloy nila 'yung kaso or I will do a public apology. Since my family po cannot afford to have a lawyer and to counter the case, we don’t have the resources for that, I opted to do a public apology,” said Molo.

“My mother pleaded na sana huwag na lang ipa-video, i-post na lang, kasi syempre, as a mother, parang kahihiyan na makita 'yung anak niya na ganun ang ginagawa, wala namang ginagawang kasalanan. Pero the same threat, 'yung binato, so wala akong nagawa kundi gawin ang video. And then, tapos, hindi ako makakauwi until hindi ko ginagawa 'yung video,” he added.

Karapatan earlier decried the harassment on Molo saying that the incident is alarming and a form of “curtailment of the right to free expression.” (SunStar Philippines)


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