College editors urge CHED to probe LNU’s policies vs campus press

John Sitchon

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College editors urge CHED to probe LNU’s policies vs campus press

CAMPUS PAPER. The Leyte Normal University, in an advisory on Wednesday evening, October 25, denied any attempts to curtail the freedom of the press, specifically the freedom of its student publication An Lantawan.


'We are all An Lantawan — an attack on one of us is an attack on us all,' says the College Editors Guild of the Philippines

CEBU, Philippines – The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Tuesday, October 24, to investigate the alleged repressive policies of the Leyte Normal University (LNU) against its student publication, An Lantawan.

“We call upon the Commission on Higher Education to investigate this brazen violation against campus press freedom. No interest other than that of the students and the LNU community must be protected at all costs,” read part of the CEGP statement.

This came after student publications in Eastern Visayas and former members of An Lantawan criticized the university administrators for allegedly forcing the campus publication to undergo an accreditation process. 

This accreditation process, according to An Lantawan alumni, contradicted the university’s student manual that gave the publication its operational autonomy.

On Monday, October 23, Rappler talked to the members of An Lantawan who said that they were told to refrain from posting articles deemed “critical” and to not publish news updates using the An Lantawan name and logo.

On Tuesday, October 24, an editorial board member who requested anonymity told Rappler that they were allowed to use the An Lantawan name and logo again on the condition that their Facebook page bio would state that their accreditation is “ongoing.”

Responding to the issues, CHED Eastern Visayas Regional Director Maximo Aljibe announced on Wednesday, October 25, that their office has reached out to LNU regarding the issues concerning An Lantawan.

Based on the protocols of the CHED regional offices, an investigation will only begin after an institution has presented a statement or report on the issues they are involved in.

“Now, more than ever, the alliance stands against all attacks on the free and united campus press. We are all An Lantawan—an attack on one of us is an attack on us all,” CEGP’ statement read.

Fighting ‘repressive systems’

The CEGP noted that the members of An Lantawan are still vulnerable to the conditions that campus journalists face in “a repressive education system.”

In recent years, some student publications were denied access to their funds and even red-tagged due to the nature of their reportage.

Yelena Castañares, editor in chief of Today’s Carolinian (TC), a student publication of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, told Rappler on Wednesday, that they have had no access to their funds for four years. 

“It makes things harder for us to do our job… when covering events, we don’t have access to a lot of things like [budget] for sending people out on the field,” Castañares said.

During the pandemic, TC also received negative comments from supporters of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia after posting an article that criticized the official for advocating steam inhalation as a COVID-19 cure.

Despite the challenges, the publication has continued its reportage of university events and has published critical opinion articles with the help of fund-raising initiatives and determined staff members.

Castañares said that at a time like this, it’s important for campus publications to stand in solidarity with each other and to pursue the discussion of issues similar to the case of An Lantawan.

“We have to be there for each other… solidarity statements and reportage on these events matter,” the student journalist said.

The university’s response

Generoso Mazo, the vice president for Student Development, in an advisory posted on the university’s official Facebook page on Wednesday evening, denied allegations that they were curtailing press freedom.

“The University has a responsibility in establishing certain guidelines and standards to ensure quality and integrity of our academic and extracurricular programs,” Mazo said.

According to him, the accreditation process is “a standard procedure” that student organizations, including publications like An Lantawan, undergo.

“Requiring An Lantawan to undergo accreditation is not an attempt to curtail the freedom of speech or of the press,” Mazo added.

He argued that the process is in accordance with established policies so that organizations within the university would adhere to ethical and professional standards, and contribute to the student experience.

“Currently and pending accreditation of An Lantawan, the University continues to support the publication of news materials and encourages open expression of ideas,” Mazo said. – Rappler.com

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