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Thomasian community decries UST 'media censorship'


Students and alumni of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) decried what they claim as media censorship by the school’s Office for Student Affairs (OSA).

The issue began over a photo taken on February 15 that was posted on social media by the university's online media organization, TomasinoWeb (also known as TomWeb), that was subsequently ordered to be taken down.

"We posted an album about the Type B season going into full swing, which showcased multiple students in their Type B uniforms. One particular photo was shot in front of a convenience store sa may Quadricentennial Pavilion that depicted two CICS (College of Information and Computing Sciences) students entering the convenience store," said TomWeb Executive Editor Miguel Angelo Sumalinog.

Sumalinog said the photo gained traction online due to the similarities between the uniforms of the CICS students and the store staff.

He said the CICS - Student Welfare Development Committee (SWDC) summoned the photographer to meet the college dean.

"Then slowly after yung OSA pinatawag na rin kami, so meetings happened the following day wherein the result from OSA was to take down the photo kasi members of the organization including Sir Leo (Laparan II, the TomasinoWeb adviser)  would face possible sanctions and natatakot sila about what (the store) would say," he stressed.

"So ending, from all the meetings, was we had to take down the photo and issue a public apology to make up for it," Sumalinong said.

TomasinoWeb announced that it would temporarily halt its operation after Laparan resigned as its organization adviser. Laparan will continue as a Journalism instructor at the university.

"In view of the resignation of our organization adviser, and following the protocol of the Office for Student Affairs, our publication on ALL social media platforms will be on hold until further notice," TomWeb said in a statement on Monday.

Members of the Thomasian community shared the photo online as a form of protest while others shared their views on the issue.

On Monday, student group Anakbayan protested alongside TomasinoWeb and various progressive Thomasian youth groups to condemn what it claimed were UST-OSA’s violations of freedom of expression and press freedom.

Several students also gathered at the school’s Padre Noval gate to protest what they consider as "media censorship".

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, meanwhile, released a statement noting that "any imposed takedown, especially over an imagined slight and not because of a factual or ethical lapse, erodes press freedom and the independence of the press."

It said the UST administration's reaction to a harmless photograph exposes its elitist stance.

"The Catholic school should instead uphold the dignity of work and honour the workers' contributions to the Philippine society. Unfortunately, this instance of censorship is just the latest and most high profile in the campus press, which has faced intimidation, repression, and lack of financial support in campuses across the Philippines," the NUJP said.

GMA News Online has sought the comment of the UST-OSA, but they have yet to respond as of writing.—RF, GMA Integrated News

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