Court halts NTC from blocking access to Bulatlat website

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 11) — A Quezon City court on Thursday granted independent news outlet Bulatlat’s plea for a preliminary injunction against the government order blocking access to its website.

Judge Dolly Rose Bolante-Prado of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 306 prohibited the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from enforcing its June 8 memorandum against Bulatlat “until a final adjudication of the merits of the main case has been made.”

This came nearly a month after she denied the news site’s appeal for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the NTC memo. At that time, the judge didn't grant the TRO since members of the court were still able to access

In issuing the injunction, Bolante-Prado declared there was “evidently” a violation or curtailment of Bulatlat’s right to free speech and of the freedom of the press when access to its website was limited. The media organization earlier reported a significant drop in the number of its site visitors following the NTC’s move.

“To the Court, any limitation or restriction in the exercise of one’s right, no matter the extent, and for even minimal periods of time, is a form of deprivation, and, clearly, a violation of such right,” the court order read. “The violation itself is damage enough on the one restrained which cannot be quantified or measured in terms of monetary value."

In a statement, Bulatlat thanked Judge Bolante-Prado for upholding journalists’ rights, as well as its lawyers and supporters "for standing with us against state-sponsored censorship."

“The court's resolution is a powerful yet beautiful defense of constitutionally-guaranteed press freedom,” the news outlet said.

The court granted Bulatlat's appeal upon the condition that it post a ₱100,000 bond to answer for damages in case it is later decided that the injunction should not have been issued.

NTC released its controversial memo upon National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s request to prohibit access to websites he accused of having links to communist groups designated by the state as terrorists.

This move was denounced by several groups, lawmakers, and the accused organizations which maintained the allegations are false.