Media groups in Iloilo have thrown their support behind four radio broadcasters who are facing libel complaints filed by Department of Education (DepEd-6) director Ramir Uytico.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP-Iloilo Chapter) “strongly condemned” the filing of separate complaints against RMN-Iloilo commentators Henry Lumawag, Novie Guazo, Regan Arlos, and Israel Vincent “Don” Dolido.

Uytico’s move, according to the KBP-Iloilo Chapter, is an “act of censorship against the media” and “sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression in the country.”

“As a government official, Uytico should be open to criticism and should be able to address any issue that is raised against him in the line of his duty,” it said in a statement.

“Instead of resorting to legal action to silence the voices of the broadcasters, he should answer these criticisms and provide explanations to the public,” the group added.

In a separate statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP-Iloilo Chapter) considered the filing of libel complaints an “apparent harassment and direct attack” against the four.

“As a government official, Uytico has a responsibility to be open to criticism to confront the problems and questions that arise,” it said.

“We believe that this case is another proof how public officials use libel as a weapon to harass, intimidate and silence journalists,” the NUJP-Iloilo Chapter added.

The complaints stemmed from commentaries made by Lumawag, Guazo, Arlos and Doledo on their radio programs on the performance of Uytico as head of DepEd’s regional office.

According to Uytico, the respondents used words that “maligned, demeaned, and damaged my person, character, and honor.”

“Such malicious imputation not only caused damage and reputation to DepEd-6 but also caused pain and embarrassment to his person and his family,” he stated.

Uytico lodged the complaints before the City Prosecutor’s Office last Jan. 23.IMT