TomasinoWeb prexy says OSA officials threatened to ‘end’ campus media outlet

Student activists light candles to protest what they deemed as “censorship” imposed on TomasinoWeb on Monday, Feb. 19. Photo by Erwin James Gianan /THE FLAME

UST OFFICE for Student Affairs (OSA) officials warned TomasinoWeb of a possible non-accreditation as a student organization due to a photo of information and computer sciences students deemed as offensive by some university administrators, the president of the campus media outlet said.

TomasinoWeb president Jan Carlo Zamora said the warning was made during a meeting at the OSA office last Feb. 16, a day after the controversial photo was published online.

‘Gusto mo ba mag-end ang TomasinoWeb sa term mo (Do you want TomasinoWeb to end within your term) was how they (OSA) asked me,” Zamora told The Flame.

The now deleted photo showed two College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) in type B uniform entering the 7-Eleven branch inside UST. Some social media users commented that the uniform of the CICS students is very similar to that of the convenience store’s employees.

The photo gained traction online, prompting OSA to set a meeting with TomasinoWeb officials and their adviser Leo Laparan II. Zamora was ordered to take down the photograph and issue an apology.

Zamora had a separate meeting with CICS officials who wanted the photo unpublished due to the supposed “public ridicule” it caused the college and its students.

“They (CICS officials) all wanted the photo gone or replaced with a new one. We officially took down the photo right after the meeting and issued an official statement within the day,” he said.

Zamora said he was not informed by OSA or CICS officials of the specific student handbook provisions TomasinoWeb has violated.

 “OSA, bearing the name Student Affairs, should have stood up for us and viewed the photograph in a different light. There is nothing wrong or malicious about the picture, yet [OSA] showed it that way,” he added.

The campus media outlet posted an official statement regarding the photo on Feb. 16.

“Some members of the University administration raised concerns regarding a photograph we posted last Wednesday, February 15, showing some CICS students in front of the 7-Eleven branch at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion,” the statement read.

The Flame sought OSA’s reaction to Zamora’s claims but has yet to receive a response.

Laparan: It was censorship

Laparan resigned as TomasinoWeb adviser on Monday, Feb. 19 and criticized what he called “censorship” by University officials.

Laparan, a journalism instructor who served as TomasinoWeb publication adviser for more than a year, said the UST officials had “forced” the campus media entity to unpublish the photo.

“It’s for the viewer to interpret the photo. But to have it taken down, or forced to be taken down, is something else. That is censorship,” Laparan told The Flame.

He said staffers were demoralized but assured Lance Bernardino, the photographer who took the controversial photo, that he would be protected.

“I felt the pressure in him (Bernardino) and I advised him not to be disheartened or disillusioned in what he loves doing which is clearly photography. He is a great photographer, the person who took the photo that was taken down,” Laparan said.

TomasinoWeb executive editor Miguel Angelo Sumalinog said the directive to remove the photo was “unjustified.”

“There wasn’t any intention to provide malice in the photo, it was not published to ridicule, that’s not the point of being what a journalist is,” Sumalinog said.

“Even if you’re a campus pub, the training grounds of what being a journalist is, it does not mean that you are safe from getting censored, especially from an innocent photo like that.”

Not a campus publication?

College of Editors Guild of the Philippines national spokesman Brell Lacerna said campus publications should be protected from administrative interference.

“All publications have editorial independence. They are independent in writing [the] truth, there [should] be no administrative intervention, no blocking accreditations. There should be no blocking a publication. Those are the rights of students,” Lacerna said.

The Campus Journalism Act of 1991 states that student publications must be independent and should not be shuttered over the articles it has published.

“The student publication shall be autonomous from any administrative intervention with regard to the handling of its funds, the content of the articles the editorial board chooses to publish,” the law said.

“The operations of the student publications shall not be delayed, suspended or closed down in connection with the articles it has published, or on basis of the conduct or performance of its staff without due process” the law read.

The same law also protects campus journalists from sanctions arising from their journalistic outputs.

“The student journalist shall not be suspended, expelled or punished with administrative sanctions solely on the basis of articles he or she has written, except when such articles constitute a violation of law, and the school’s valid and reasonable schools and regulations,” Section 11 of the 1991 law read.

However, under the guidelines set by UST, TomasinoWeb is not considered a campus publication but a “student organization” subject to the rules of the OSA.

In a statement to The Flame, TomasinoWeb described the set-up as an “unfortunate reality” that has neutered its capability to function as an independent publication.

“The recent events have highlighted this even more. It’s high time for TomasinoWeb to be an independent publication so that it and all its members can be protected by the Campus Journalism Act,” it said.

“We emphasize that we need more sources of news and information in the campus, not less. Letting TomasinoWeb coexist with other publications would greatly benefit the entire Thomasian community.” F – with reports from Ethan Christensen Cardaño, Erwin James Gianan and Ma. Alyanna Selda


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