Posts

Gunmen kill broadcaster; murder earns swift condemnation

Gunmen killed a broadcaster in Las Pinas City on Monday, the second media worker killed under the three month-old Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presidency.

Percival Mabasa, known in the broadcast industry as Percy Lapid, was declared dead on arrival at a local hospital after two gunmen aboard a motorcycle fired at least two gunshots at the victim.

Described as a hard-hitting broadcaster, he was a critic of several Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte government officials.

Mabasa’s family said they are deeply saddened and angered by what they described as a “brutal and brazen killing of fearless broadcaster, father and husband, brother and friend.”

“We strongly condemn this deplorable crime; it was committed not only against Percy, his family, and his profession, but against our country, his beloved Philippines, and the truth,” the family said.

They added that the victim was highly respected by his listeners as well as peers and foes alike.

“His bold and sharp commentaries cut through the barrage of fake news over the air waves and on social media,” they added.

Mabasa was host of Lapid Fire radio show that aired on DWBL. Previously, he was a broadcaster with radio station DWIZ.

On his YouTube channel, Mabasa commented on the dangers of red-tagging, including that of the recent harassment of Manila Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar who ruled against the government’s proscription of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.

Mabasa also recently commented on the security risks of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators and on historical distortion of Martial Law.

The victim is the second journalist to be killed under Marcos Jr. administration.

Radio broadcaster Rey Blanco was stabbed to death in Mabinay, Negros Oriental last September 18.

Immediate condemnation

Media and human rights organization also condemned the killing and joined Mabasa’s family in calling for justice.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Mabasa’s murder shows that journalism remains a dangerous profession in the country.

“That the incident took place in Metro Manila indicates how brazen the perpetrators were, and how authorities have failed to protect journalists as well as ordinary citizens from harm,” the NUJP in a statement Tuesday said.

The Pinoy Media Center condemned Mabasa’s murder and called it another politically-motivated case of extrajudicial killing “to silence truth seekers and media practitioners.

The People’s Alternative Media Network also condemned the murder it said is part of a landscape of violence and intimidation against journalists and citizens.

The National Press Club and the organization of justice beat reporters also issued statements calling for justice for Mabasa.

Human rights group Karapatan joined in the calls for an independent investigation to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Karapatan also said it will join the condemnation rally organized by the NUJP at the Boy Scouts monument in Quezon City at six o’clock tonight. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

JOINT STATEMENT: Stop the cyber attacks!

AlterMidya

Over the past few months, several news sites have been subjected to cyber attacks.

According to a February 7 article in the Manila Bulletin, the websites of CNN Philippines, Rappler and Philstar.com have been attacked, purportedly by a group calling itself Pinoy Vendetta, a group that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has praised and has encouraged to take down more websites.

The websites of Altermidya and Bulatlat have also been targeted for three consecutive days.

In the same week, the websites of Inquirer.net and of One News have also briefly gone offline. Inquirer has yet to confirm that it was attacked but One News reports that some of its content is no longer available.

Last year, forensic investigation by Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation shows that the distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on alternative media websites have been linked to the Philippine Army, using the infrastructure of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

No less than the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) confirmed that the IP address used for the unauthorized vulnerability scan was assigned to the Philippine Army.

While the recent cases of DDoS against a number of corporate media outfits have not been investigated yet, the timing and frequency raise our suspicion that the cyber attacks are orchestrated, systematic, and politically motivated.

What is clear by now is that the ones behind these are so afraid of the truth that they try to put down the websites of news organizations.

Cyber censorship has no place in a democracy. It is deplorable that a publicly funded task force supports and promotes cyber attacks on news sites.

We call on the DICT and the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division to look into these incidents, stop the cyber attacks, identify and hold the perpetrators accountable.

We want to continue doing our duty to inform the citizenry; knowing that by doing so we aid them in their decision-making.

SIGNATORIES:

NUJP

NUJP Philstar chapter

NUJP NCR

Altermidya

Bulatlat

Kodao

Rappler

Kodao wins human rights award

Kodao Productions was among the winners in this year’s Human Rights Pinduteros’s Choice Awards given by HRonlinePH.

Kodao’s post of Altermidya Network’s statement “On the incredulous red-tagging of Altermidya Network at the Dec. 1 Senate hearing” won in the awards’ Human Rights Network’s Posts category, receiving the most number of clicks in a poll held last November 10 to 25 on HRonlinePH’s website and Facebook page.

It condemned National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s red-tagging of Altermidya, an alliance of community journalist, independent media outfits, community radio broadcasters and grassroots film collectives.

Kodao’s deputy director for radio Raymund Villanueva said the media outfit dedicates the award to National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and Commission on Human Rights Chairperson (CHR) Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon who both died of illness this year.

“Ka Bien had been our Board of Directors chairperson for the longest time and Chito had been our friend and supporter since he became CHR chairperson. Both were staunch human rights defenders,” Villanueva said.

For human rights heroes

HRonlinePH said its 11th Pinduteros’ Choice Awards is a recognition and appreciation of its human rights heroes who persevere in defending human rights.

“Through our annual gathering we recognize the significant contribution of individuals and groups for raising awareness, inspiring and acting for human rights,” HRonlinePH co-founder Jerbert Briola said.

HRonlinePH’s annual Pinduteros’ Choice Award is its traditional culmination of a two-day human rights conference that focuses on freedom of expression.

Other 11th Pinduteros’ Choice Awards winners were:

HR Pinduteros Choice for HR BLOGSITE: Minding Mindoro and beyond by Norman Novio

HR Pinduteros Choice for HR EVENT: A Story from the HeART by UP Educators’ Circle (UP EdCirc

HR Pinduteros Choice for HR VIDEOS: #SanaAllDapatAll Pantay at Patas | #WokeDTalk2021 Episode 1 by TFDP and Y4R

HR Pinduteros Choice for FEATURED OFF THE SHELF/RESOURCES: Tuligsa at iba pang mga Tula ni Rene Boy E. Abiva

HR Pinduteros Choice for FEATURED SITE: QUARANTALK MEDIA

HR Pinduteros Choice for HR CAMPAIGN: #BabaeMakapangyarihan by World March Of Women-Pilipinas

HR Pinduteros Choice for RIGHT-UP: Isang Bukas na Liham Para kay Bb. Angel Locsin by Jose Mario De Vega

HR Pinduteros Choice for WEBSITE: KARAPATAN Network for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights

Karapatan won for the second year in a row.

The 11th Pinduteros’ Choice Awards also honored Forum Asia and the British Embassy in Manila with special plaques of appreciation for their support to HRonlinePH.

Briola said the awards is their contribution to the commemoration of International Human Rights Day that recognizes the dissemination, promotion and publication of materials, events, articles and articles on human rights.

“This year’s awardees did not waver in their commitment to human rights despite various obstacles and hardships. These defenders did not give up. This award is a recognition and celebration of their relentless advocacy for human rights in the midst of pandemic and tyranny,” Briola said. #

Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

Digital platforms linked to the Rodrigo Duterte government launched attacks on the websites of alternative media outfits and a human rights organization, a Sweden-based digital forensics group revealed.

Several internet protocol (IP) addresses linked to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Army attacked the websites of media outfits Bulatlat (Bulatlat.com) and Altermidya (Altermidya.net) and human rights group Karapatan (Karapatan.org), Qurium Media Foundation reported.

Qurium said that it was able to identify a vulnerability scan an attack on Bulatlat.com last May 18 by a machine from the DOST network with IP address 202.90.137{.}42.

The vulnerability scan sought potential weaknesses in the targeted network without permission from the system owner, Qurium said.

The group said the IP address’ certificate was registered to IP Solutions, Inc., a supplier of hardware and services to Philippine government agencies.

Another unit under the same IP address was registered to a certain “[email protected] Taguig Red Server.”

The “army.mil.ph” is the official domain and website of the Philippine Army.

The IP address was also traced to an edit in the Wikipedia entry “Chief of the Army (Philippines)” last June 10, 2021, Qurium said.

The series of attacks also included “HTTP flood attacks”, a type of volumetric Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack designed to overwhelm a targeted server with seemingly legitimate HTTP requests.

Kodao was first to announce of an intense DDoS attack that coincided with the attacks on AlterMidya, Bulatlat and Karapatan.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has issued separate alerts on both reports. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘TANIM PILA’: Memo instructs police to use ‘planted’ beneficiaries at community pantries

AlterMidya

A memorandum and attached project brief from Philippine National Police (PNP) Cagayan de Oro are instructing cops to employ pre-designated beneficiaries in the rollout of their Barangayanihan initiative, which is inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

Under the said project, police precincts will serve ‘breakfast lugaw’ to select constituents in respective barangays. They are required to cite the Maginhawa Community Pantry as inspiration and make it clear that the effort is a partnership between the precinct and barangay donors and stakeholders.

“Respective beneficiaries will take pictures of the activity and post in their respective FB accounts. These netizens can be planted beneficiary civilians so as to manifest community’s appreciation,” read the project brief.

Although the project brief is attached to the said PNP Regional Office 10 memo, it mentions implementation by almost all precincts in Manila Police District and “possibly the whole NCR and other regions” in the rollout phase from April 21 to 25. Moreover, the next phase from April 26 to May 2 instructs nationwide Barangayanihan.

During this phase, the police are likewise instructed to “ask or plant civilian beneficiaries to take pics/selfies and posting in respective [Facebooks] with appreciation captions and standard MANDATORY hashtags.”

The objectives of Barangayanihan, according to its project brief, include forging stronger ties with the grassroots through the “basic unit of society”, the barangay.

The police directive also explicitly states that “The more we manifest collaborations with the barangay citizenry, the more we gain grounds in the fight against insurgency”, confirming the suspicion of several critics that state forces are planning to use the community pantry against the progressive movement.

Hijacking community pantries?

A portion of the project brief reads “Respective beneficiaries will take pictures and post in their respective FB..”

The said memorandum listed among its references the PNP’s guidance and compliance under Executive Order 70, which institutionalized the whole-of-nation approach against insurgency and established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Just last week, NTF-ELCAC executive director Allen Capuyan in a leaked Viber message encouraged the task force’s different clusters to partner with the public and private sectors to initiate community pantry-related activities.

Capuyan’s message read that the task force is encouraging its clusters, including the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS), the Poverty Reduction Livelihood and Empowerment Cluster (PRLEC), etc. to start their own community pantry activities.

The PNP memo to organize precinct-run community pantries seems to come from this directive from NTF-ELCAC. Former Bayan Muna party-list representative Teddy Casiño said that the task force’s latest approach follows the controversial red-tagging of community pantries by NTF-ELCAC officials Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr., which drew huge flak from the public.

“Ok sana kung gustong magtayo ng community pantry ng mga pulis. Pero naman, pati ba ito tataniman nila?” Casiño tweeted.

“Clearly, after failing to discredit and intimidate the community pantry movement, the NTF-ELCAC, police and military establishment are poised to hijack it due to their paranoia that it’s all a communist plot,” he said. “They simply can’t leave a good thing alone.”

In a statement, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that the huge budget of the PNP should instead be rechannelled to cash aid for the poor. The Barangayanihan, it said, is a “publicity stunt” that hijacks pantries and attempts to conceal the government’s failure in addressing the pandemic.

“Desperadong hakbang ito gamit ang buwis ng mamamayan,” KMU leader Jerome Adonis said.”Ideretso nyo na ang pera sa mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng P100 daily wage subsidy at P10k ayuda.”

With reports from Ratziel San Juan

Journos pedal for jailed colleagues

Media groups and supporters held a biking event Sunday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the arrest of a journalist in Tacloban City on what they claim are trumped up charges.

Members of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), the International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) biked around Quezon City to call for the dropping of charges against Eastern Vista executive director Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

The bikers along Quezon Avenue on their way to the Commission on Human Rights.

Cumpio was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Philippine National Police (PNP), allegations uniformly leveled against arrested critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The event also called for the immediate release of Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem whose case was dismissed by the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court just last Friday due to inconsistencies in the statements submitted by police witnesses.

Salem was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the PNP last December 10, International Human Rights Day.

She remains in jail, however, pending the issuance of a release order by the court.

The bike event started at the University of the Philippines and made its first stop at ABS-CBN where a brief program was held.

The bikers pedaled on to the statue of press freedom icon Joaquin Roces and then to the Commission on Human Rights were programs were also held.

Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla and Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity convenor Tonyo Cruz vowed to continue their struggle to free Cumpio and Salem.

ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union president Jon Villanueva for his part thanked the media organizations and press freedom advocates for their continuing support to the beleaguered network.

ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union president Jon Villanueva.

Members of the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines welcomed the bikers at ABS-CBN.

The NUJP meanwhile hailed Mandaluyong RTC Presiding Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio’s cancellation of the search warrant used against Salem that “suffered from vagueness.”

“Even as we eagerly await Icy’s (Salem) return to freedom, we denounce the gross injustice she was subjected to by the agents of a government bent on suppressing the independent media and freedom of expression,” the NUJP said.

In a separate statement, the NUJP demanded the release of Cumpio it said was arrested and is being detained on spurious charges.

“The ordeal of Frenchie Mae is part of the increasing persecution of the critical media by the forces of a government so intolerant of criticism and dissent that the mere exercise of democratic rights is enough for one to be branded an ‘enemy of the state,’” the NUJP said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

2020 saw most brazen abuses vs journalism—NUJP

The year 2020 had been particularly bad for journalism in the Philippines that saw more media workers killed, arrested, jailed and lose their jobs, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

The media group said four journalists have been killed in the Philippines, including Cornelio Pepino in Negros Oriental last May 5; Jobert Bercasio in Sorsogon last September 14; Virgilio Maganes in Pangasinan last November 10; and Ronnie Villamor in Masbate last November 14.

Villamor was shot dead by the Philippine Army that claimed the journalist was a communist supporter and killed in an encounter.

Maganes, who survived the first slay attempt against him in 2016 by playing dead, was killed inside their family compound in Villasis, Pangasinan.

“Their deaths have brought the total of media killings under Duterte to 19, and to 191 since 1986,” the NUJP said.

The International Federation of Journalists lists the Philippines as among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world in 2020.

Their killing of four Filipino media workers figured in the list of 60 journalists killed worldwide in 2020 by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The IFJ list made the Philippines the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the world in 2020, along with Syria and after India (8 killed), Pakistan (7), Afghanistan (7).

The list made the country the most dangerous in Southeast Asia as well.

Twenty-seven journalists were killed in the Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous region for journalists in 2020.

Arrests and detention

Seven journalists have also been arrested, at least two of whom remain detention, both women and executives of alternative media outfits.

Those arrested in 2020 include Glenn Jester Hitgano in Jan. 21 (arbitrarily arrested during coverage); Frenchiemae Cumpio in Feb. 7 (illegal firearms possession); Ramil Traya Bagues in Aug. 18 (cyber-libel); Rommel Ibasco Fenix in Sept. 15 (libel and violation of Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009);  Virgilio Avila Jr.  in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); Mia Concordia in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); and Lady Ann Salem in Dec. 10 (illegal possession of firearms and explosives).

Cumpio, executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista, was sleeping at a church group’s dormitory when arrested in the dead of night.

Her case was among those cited by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights report in June last year as a clear case of human rights violation.

Partial Committee to Protect Journalists list of jailed media workers where Frenchie Mae Cumpio appears.

Cumpio’s imprisonment also made it to the list of 274 journalists jailed in 2020 globally by the New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The CPJ said the number was “a new high…as governments cracked down on coverage of COVID-19 or tried to suppress reporting on political unrest.”

Salem, editor of alternative news outfit Manila Today was arrested, of all days, on International Human Rights Day.

The NUJP has reported Salem’s case to the CPJ but the latter’s list has yet to include her name.

Salem is currently is in a Covid-19 isolation protocol at the Mandaluyong City Jail after her transfer from the Philippine National Police’s jail facility at Camp Crame.

CPJ infographic on countries where journalists have been jailed in 2020.

The rest of the arrested Filipino journalists were able to post bail, except Bagues whose current status the NUJP is trying to find out.

Red-tagging and charges

The NUJP said that the Philippine government had been especially vicious against the press the past year as compared to the first three years of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“[B]ad as the first three years were, 2020 trumped them all as Duterte and his minions ramped up their attacks on the free press even as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its deadly grip felt,” the NUJP said.

The media group said the Duterte government displayed a “most brazen abuse of state power” by red-tagging journalists and media institutions.

Aside from Cumpio and Salem, various government agencies and officials red-tagged alternative media outfits Kodao Productions, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, Northern Dispatch, Panay Today, Manila Today, Radyo Natin-Guimba as well as dominant media organizations ABS-CBN, Rappler, CNN-Philippines, among many others.

Veteran journalist and NUJP director and former chairperson Nestor Burgos Jr. had also been red-tagged.

Editors and staff of Baguio City-based Northern Dispatch faced various police-instigated charges in court throughout last year.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Rey Santos Jr. were judged guilty in June last year of libelling a businessman with links to Duterte.

Maria Ressa in a press briefing after her conviction of libel last June 15. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

ABS-CBN closure

The NUJP said the pandemic gave Duterte convenient cover to make good his repeated threats to shut down ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest media conglomerate.

As threats of arrest forced the growing crowds that had rallied to the beleaguered network since late last year to stand down, the House of Representatives allowed ABS-CBN’s franchise to lapse, forcing the network to stop broadcasting on May 5.

On May 5, the network stopped broadcasting and, two months later, in June, the majority of the House committee on congressional franchises sealed its fate, voting to deny it a new franchise to operate.

Duterte thus become the second president after Ferdinand Marcos to force ABS-CBN off the air, the NUJP said.

The closure left thousands jobless and the loss of ABS-CBN regional stations also left many areas without their major source of news and entertainment.

The full extent of this would become clear during typhoons Rolly and Ulysses that caught millions of victims previously dependent on ABS-CBN news and alerts unaware of the hazards of the disasters, the NUJP said.

We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” media organizations including the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files said.

Bright spots

All was not gloomy in 2020, however, as there had been bright spots in the local media community’s defense of press freedom, the NUJP said.

“Not least of this was the successful push to have UNESCO revert the status of the Ampatuan massacre to ‘unresolved’ after it was pointed out that the legal process is not finished and 76 suspects are still at large and will need to be tried should they be arrested, the media group said.

The NUJP also cited other notable victories such as the case of GMA workers who sued the network over unfair labor practices

In February, the Court of Appeals decided to reinstate, with no loss of seniority and with full back wages, 51 employees who had been illegally terminated while the Supreme Court in September ruled to reinstate 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen illegally dismissed by GMA in 2013.

The NUJP also said that despite “continuing efforts of the enemies of truth to spread disinformation, the media community has, by and large, successfully fended them off, including the paid influencers and trolls of government.”

“As we thankfully bid goodbye to 2020, we are also aware of what could be even greater challenges and threats to freedom of the press and of expression in 2021 and beyond…And so we look forward to 2021 resolved to continue defending and pushing the boundaries for press freedom in our land,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist, 6 trade union organizers arrested in police raids on human rights day

[UPDATED] A journalist was among those arrested by the Philippine National Police in a wave of arrests today, International Human Rights Day.

Lady Ann Salem, editor of alternative news site Manila Today, was arrested by the police at 9AM at her residence in Mandaluyong City.

Salem inside an unmarked police car this morning. (Photo by a relative)

She was first taken to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters in Quezon City but was whisked to a Pasig City police office just as her lawyer Kristina Conti arrived.

Conti and Manila Today staff followed the police van to Pasig City but were led to a chase that ended in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where Salem is now being detained.

Salem, a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP-CMC), co-founded the alternative media group Tudla and was among those who attended the founding assembly of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) in 2010.

She is also a fellow of the Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop of UP-CMC.

Tudla and Manila Today are chapters of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Salem is also the communications officer of the global media group International Association of Women in Radio and Television.

https://www.facebook.com/altermidya/posts/1857999847682801

Wave of arrests

Since 2AM this morning, the police had been raiding homes and arresting trade union organizers.

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines was first to be arrested at their home in Lagro, Quezon city by the CIDG and was taken to Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

Like many other arrested activists, the police alleged that Velasco was in possession of guns and explosives.

In a Facebook Live post, Velasco’s wife Diane Zapata denied they were keeping such items at their home.

She in turn accused the police of planting them while they were ordered to lie face down for an hour and the police team had unhampered access to their house.

In a police report, the CIDG said it also arrested a Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Raiselle Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio, and Joel Demate in a wave of arrests in Quezon City, Mandaluyong and Manila that netted several guns, explosives and ammunition.

Human rights and media groups are organizing an online rally at 7PM tonight to demand for Salem and the trade union organizers’ freedom.

Indignation rallies are also scheduled Friday morning at Camp Karingal, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court and Camp Crame. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups rally behind AlterMidya; condemn ‘callous, dangerous, evidence-less red-tagging’

Media institutions defended a network of independent news outfits from government allegations it is a Communist “propaganda machinery.”

In a statement following a Senate hearing last week, the country’s most respected media institutions expressed support to the People’s Alternative Media Network (AlterMidya) and denounced the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s repeated allegations against the group.

“We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” the media organizations said.

The institutions include the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files.

At the third hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation on red-tagging last December 1, NTF-ELCAC executive director Allen Capuyan said AlterMidya outfits were part of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ “propaganda machinery.”

The media institutions however said Capuyan’s allegation is “a baseless blanket statement… provided without proof, presented as an out-of-context info-graphic, fraught with deadly consequences.”

“Red-tagging, especially without credible evidence of wrongdoing, is a devious form of disinformation. Other institutions red-tagged have been systematically harassed or demonized; other individuals, especially women, have been trolled, detained, assaulted, even killed,” the signatories said.

The institutions said the Altermidya network offers independent readings of national issues and events that a functioning democracy should welcome as part of a healthy pluralism in the public discourse.

“It is admirably committed to reporting on corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental issues, as well as the plight of farmers and workers. And some of its institutional members, including but not limited to Bulatlat.com and Northern Dispatch, have a well-deserved national reputation for high-quality journalism: hard-hitting, yes, but also rooted in the facts,” their statement said.

The media organizations said the AlterMidya network has done its journalism despite great risk, including death threats and a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

“We therefore view this latest act of red-tagging with the utmost concern. It renders these community journalists even more vulnerable to abuse and violence, at the exact time we need more of their journalism,” they said.

‘Small but courageous’

In an earlier statement, the NUJP called on fellow journalists and “all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy” to support AlterMidya “against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials.”

The NUJP said the government’s “baseless accusations” against the alternative media are nothing new but the level of vilification from the Duterte administration through NTF-ELCAC indicates it is bent on silencing contrary views and voices to force conformity on the Filipino people.

The NUJP said the latest assault on the alternative media is similar to the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations.

The union said AlterMidya’s “small but courageous news outfits” play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues.

These issues include land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice as well as oft-neglected sectors such as farmers, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

“The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole,” the NUJP said.

“It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization,” NUJP said.

‘Will not be muzzled’

Alternative news outfit Bulatlat.com in an editorial said it will not be muzzled by the government’s latest attempt to discredit independent journalism in the Philippines.

Bulatlat  said President Duterte had been attempting to picture independent journalists as

“enemies of the state for exposing the administration’s gross human rights record, and lately its inefficiency in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of recent strong typhoons.”

“Our allegiance is to the truth. That such truth hurts those in power only affirms even more the relevance of independent and fearless journalism. We in Bulatlat will continue to perform our tasks, alongside our colleagues in the alternative and dominant media, because the Filipino people deserve no less,” the country’s oldest existing online news outfit said.

Mindanao’s Davao Today also said it is concerned with the “malicious and baseless attempt to taint the integrity of Davao Today in its role as the voice of the Mindanao community.”

“In a national landscape where dissenting voices are increasing and systematically silenced, independent and community-sourced bearers of information have become our last stronghold of democratic practice. Community journalism should flourish to serve the community as Davao Today has been doing,” the outfit said in a statement.

AlterMidya said it sees the latest attacks against itself and its members as a form of intimidation to force critical journalists into silence amid growing discontent among the people due to the Duterte government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AlterMidya said it will pursue legal action against NTF-ELCAC’s “malicious smear campaign.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP: Stand with AlterMidya, Defend Press Freedom

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines calls on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy to support the alternative media against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials at the December 1 hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization.

These small but courageous news outfits play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues – land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice, to name a few – and oft-neglected sectors – the peasants, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole.

Baseless accusations against the alternative media are nothing new, of course. But the level of vilification from this administration, through the agencies and officials in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, indicates that government and its security machinery are bent on silencing contrary views and voices, and force conformity on our people.

Make no mistake, this assault on the alternative media is no different from the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations that insist on fulfilling our role of watchdog, of holding power to account, of speaking truth to power.

We cannot, we must not, allow them to succeed. Let us once and for all show them that we, the Philippine media and people, are free not because we are allowed to but because we insist on being free. #