Community publication executive director threatened

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – An unidentified man bearing a bouquet of flowers and a photo of Eastern Vista newspaper Executive Director Frenchiemae Cumpio visited the office in Tacloban City, Leyte on 31 January 2020.

Tacloban is 572 kilometers from Manila.

Cumpio told CMFR the unknown visitor was described as “military-looking” by the building caretaker. In a Facebook post, Eastern Vista days before the incident had reported that “a progressive organization in Tacloban City will be raided.”  Cumpio said that unidentified men in masks have been surveilling their office since the incident.

She and her colleagues have been  harassed by  unidentified men since 13 December 2019 when they were tailed by men in motorcycles without plate numbers.

Ito ay atake sa press freedom, and they’re all connected,” (This is an attack on press freedom and are all connected) Cumpio said in a phone interview. She recalled how Eastern Visayas journalists were forced by the military to sign the Manifesto of Commitment to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in November 2019. EO 70 commits every government agency and institution in the government campaign to end insurgency and has been used to force media organizations and journalists to support it on pain of being labeled supporters or even members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Support for it has been equated with not being critical of government and being “positive” in reporting.

“Noong nakita nila na may media outfit na [nagsasabi] ng totoong information sa sitwasyon ng Eastern Visayas, kino-control nila gamit ang harassment,” (When they saw that there are media outfits that provide truthful information on the situation in Eastern Visayas, they try to control them through harassment) she added.

The Altermidya alliance of alternative media organizations denounced the incident.  “[We believe] that state forces are behind the relentless harassment against Eastern Vista, which has continuously reported on human rights issues in the Visayas including on military abuses,” they said.