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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. #

On the incredulous red-tagging of Altermidya Network at the Dec. 1 Senate hearing

ONCE AGAIN, state forces led the hostile red-baiting of independent media at the December 1 Senate hearing after they presented the Altermidya Network and its members nationwide as so-called communist fronts.

The red-tagging of Altermidya journalists, online and on-ground, has intensified even more in the past months. These incidents, just like the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) presentation at the Senate hearing earlier, were done without evidence and incredulously linked the member outfits of Altermidya to an underground Communist organization.

In fact, the task force, despite its billion-peso-budget, merely copied the publicly-available Altermidya list of members and placed it under an incredible organizational heading.

We are appalled at this irresponsible practice, which is a stark contrast to our ethical commitment of truthful and careful reporting as journalists. The Altermidya Network is the broadest alliance of community journalists, independent media outfits, community radio broadcasters, and grassroots film collectives in the country. Its member outfits have a consistent record of covering underreported issues in communities – some for more than two decades, while other community-based media outfits in provinces join and continually expand the network.

Journalists from the alternative media relentlessly report on the situation in various communities across the country: on environment issues, corruption, human rights abuses, on the situation of farmers and workers, among others. Reporting on these stories have resulted in the non-stop attacks in various forms against our members – from death threats, cyberattacks, harassment, physical assault, detention, and even attempted murder.

Now, these attacks against the independent media are being mounted in a prominent arena at the Senate. But we can clearly see through these tactics of smearing and intimidating truth-tellers and critics into silence, especially in the middle of a growing discontent among the public.

We in the Altermidya are not new to attacks on media freedom. We will pursue legal action against this malicious smear campaign on our members. While we exhaust all means to fight back, we shall continue our journalistic responsibility of truth-telling– and with fellow journalists and freedom-loving Filipinos, persist in upholding press freedom and freedom of expression at all costs. #

Media outfits file complaints vs state agents over red-tagging, seizure of news magazine

By EMILY VITAL/Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Alternative media outfits filed before the Commission on Human Rights complaints against government officials and state security agents for violating their “fundamental right to press freedom and expression, and the right to information of the audiences they serve.”

Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, Pinoy Weekly, Kodao Productions and Bulatlat filed separate complaints against members of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Philippine National Police who have threatened and tagged them as terrorists and communist-fronts.

One of the complaints is the recent confiscation by police in Pandi, Bulacan of thousands of copies of the news magazine Pinoy Weekly, which they maliciously tagged “subversive documents.”

The media outfits also cited that the vicious red baiting done by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and their suspected agents has put their members’ safety and security at risk.

Bulatlat associate editor Danilo Arao filed a separate complaint as his name was included in a fake “Oust Duterte” matrix last year.

Kenneth Roland Guda, editor in chief of Pinoy Weekly, condemned the PNP Region 3 police for tagging the news magazine as “terrorist-related material.” The label, he said, may be used to file trumped-up charges of inciting to commit terrorism against them.

Under the Duterte administration, attacks on alternative media have been persistent. Altermidya documented one case of frustrated murder, eight cases of arrest and detention, 28 cases of threat and intimidation, which include surveillance, two cases of physical injuries, and six cases of cyber-attacks against its member-media outfits.

One of its members, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, is still detained in Tacloban for fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expressed its support to Altermidya.

NUJP said that while Duterte has never directly attacked the alternative media, “those in government, particularly state security, have taken the presidential wrath against the free press as license to go after those who shine the light of truth on the inconvenient truths of Philippine society.”

“It is for this shared history of struggling for press freedom and for the invaluable work they do that we are proud to have our colleagues from Altermidya alongside us in the continuing struggle to resist those who would seek to silence open discourse in our society,” NUJP said.

The complaints were received by Ronnie Rosero and Rommel Tinga of CHR Investigative Division. #

Reporting the people’s demands is not a crime

Altermidya.net

Information is of utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporting the people’s grievances and demands is the solemn duty of the media; it is not a crime.

The Guimba municipal council’s Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 52 s.2020 last May 11 empowered the mayor of the Nueva Ecija town to file criminal charges against radio network Radyo Natin Guimba (RNG) for alleged violations of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020 (Republic Act 11469) by reporting the complaints of residents over the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Prior to the resolution, RNG reported that a municipal councilor and son of the incumbent mayor confiscated RNG field reporter Lina Villaflor’s media identification cards issued by the Presidential Communications and Operations Office.

Earlier, on April 22, the mayor had written the station requesting a copy of the radio broadcast aired that day, stating that the “false and malicious” statements made by the commentator could be a basis for his legal action against the station.

This is a form of censorship meant to intimidate the media into either silence or reporting eventually and issues in a manner acceptable to local government officials.

Subsequent direct attacks against the station have been reported, among them the barring of RNG reporters from covering the sessions of the Guimba Sangguniang Bayan. On May 19, the local police again barred an RNG reporter from covering the distribution of rice seeds to farmers.

All these are in violation of press freedom, and were apparently in response to RNG’s reports on the problematic implementation by the Guimba local government of the SAP.

RNG reported that several residents had trooped to their station to air complaints on the “selective” manner in which the cash aid is being distributed—that the municipality and its barangay officials were prioritizing rich farmers over small tillers.

RNG also reported that the local police have prevented them from taking photos and videos of people who trooped to the municipal hall to complain about the SAP implementation.

As much as it is the constitutional right of the people to air their grievances, it is also the constitutional right – and the primordial duty – of the press to report on these issues.

Local government executives should keep in mind that that the current national emergency does not empower officials to silence dissent and curtail press freedom, both of which are essential to a functional democracy in which elected officials are duty-bound to defend the Constitution.

Joint statement: Stand with ABS-CBN, Defend Free Expression

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) issued a statement Monday night claiming that “the ABS-CBN issue is about CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] propaganda, so it falls under NTF ELCAC’s mandate.”

The statement came after the brouhaha ignited by the recent crossposting in several official government social media accounts of false information about the ABS-CBN issue.

Despite the fact that the NTF ELCAC got burned by the Palace when Communications Sec. Martin Andanar admitted that the cross-posting of NTF ELCAC’s infographics on ABS-CBN did not undergo the “usual vetting procedures,” Parlade persisted in linking the ABS-CBN issue to the CPP.

Under different circumstances, we could have dismissed Parlade’s red-baiting statement. But the reality is that journalists are being harassed, arrested, and killed under the pretext of counter-insurgency.

In a futile attempt to blindside the alternative media, Parlade directly mentioned the Altermidya Network and its members including Bulatlat, Kodao, Tudla, Kilab, Northern Dispatch, and even the formations National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Union of Journalists of the Philippines (UJP), and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, labeling all these groups as “creations of the CPP.” The general also labeled veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona as a “long-time cohort” of the CPP and dared her to “expose herself some more.”

As we have said, time and again, the fight for the ABS-CBN franchise renewal is a fight for free expression and a fight for all. But Parlade is instead red-tagging virtually everyone and anyone who supports the call for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise.

There is nothing new in this attack. Keen observers of the increasingly deteriorating state of press freedom in the country were not surprised. In the context of the Duterte administration’s weaponizing the public health emergency to further its goal of controlling information and public opinion, Parlade’s use of the ABS-CBN issue is just one more demonstration of its determination to silence dissent and free expression.

At a time when millions are standing up and speaking out about the abuses of the Duterte administration, state agents respond with a patently unconstitutional crackdown on the media sector.

Parlade’s empty accusations should not deter the media from reporting the truth. Rather they should continue to monitor and hold government to account despite its concerted efforts to silence them.

Stand with ABS-CBN!  Defend press freedom and free expression!

SIGNATORIES

Altermidya Network
Bulatlat
Kilab Multimedia
Kodao Productions
Northern Dispatch
Tudla Productions
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP

Philippine Press Institute
International Association of Women in Radio & Television (IAWRT) Philippines
UP Journalism Department
Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP)
Let’s Organize for Democracy & Integrity – LODI
Concerned Artists of the Philippines
NUJP-NCR
Manila Today
Pinoy Weekly
PinoyMedia Center
UP Solidaridad
CEGP- Bicol, CEGP-Cagayan, CEGP-Cavite, CEGP-Cebu, CEGP-Central Luzon, CEGP-Cordillera, CEGP- Davao, CEGP-Ilocos, CEGP-Laguna, CEGP-Metro Manila, CEGP-Panay, CEGP-Southern Tagalog

Individuals

Inday Espina-Varona
Prof. Luis V. Teodoro
Ramon R. Tuazon
Therese S. Torres
Ma. Imelda Samson

Campus publications

Philippine Collegian
Manila Collegian
UPLB Perspective
UP Bagiuio Outcrop
UP Cebu Tug-ani
UP Mindanao Himati
Tinig ng Plaridel
Sinag (UP CSSP)
Kalasag (UP CAL)
Pagbutlak (UPV CAS)
UP Scientia (UP CS)
The Accounts (UPV College of Management)
NCPAG-Umalohokan
Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag ng PUP
CLSU Collegian
Fiat Lux
Himati-UP Mindanao
Iskolarium-PUP Sta. Maria Bulacan Campus
RedWire – University of the East
The Current – CMU
PUP BiblioFlix
The Angelite – Holy Angel University
The Catalyst PUP
The Chronicler – PUP Taguig
The College Chronicles –  Meycauayan College
The Lycean Pioneer-LPU Manila SHS
The Red Chronicles – San Beda College Alabang School of Law
The Geyser – Isabela State University Cabagan
The CSU Promethean – Cagayan State University Carig
The Scribes – PUP City of Meycauayan
The Searcher – PUP Sto. Tomas
The Work – Tarlac State University
TomasinoWeb – University of Santo Tomas

We will not be cowed nor silenced

Today, we take pride in announcing that we have earned a position among the online media outfits targeted for shutdown for reporting critically and siding with the truth. Our digital security partner confirmed on April 28 that www.nordis.net, the web-based platform of Northern Dispatch, is the subject of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

So intense is the attack that even after our web host provider, Host Color, removed the resource limit of our account, our site failed to accommodate the traffic. The millions of requests that flooded the site overloaded and crashed the server. To date, our website has been down for two days. Before this, access has been intermittent since April 17.

This latest attack against Northern Dispatch, while highly condemnable, also means that we are performing our job well. We live up to our principle and tradition of amplifying the voice of the poor and marginalized. By doing so, we made enemies of dark forces that spread lies and narratives against the poor and their struggles.

It is important to note that this cyber-assault came amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a period when critical reporting on the actual situation is urgent and essential. When people need to know how the government is responding to the health crisis and the severe socio-economic problems it spawned. Our foes initiated the attack at a time when rights protected under the Constitution are brazenly violated on unprecedented scales under the pretext of a public health emergency.

The attack came after months of intensified red-tagging of our outfit and staff by the military and its army of online trolls and minions. Since last year, the vilification and intimidation of our correspondents from Cagayan Valley (Deo Montesclaros) and Ilocos (Paola Espiritu) by state agents intensified. Also last year, suspected military assets shot and critically wounded Brandon Lee, our provincial correspondent from Ifugao. Last January, the Baguio City Police also tagged our Managing Editor Sherwin De Vera as a Communist Front Organization personality.

Just this April, online trolls circulated images on Facebook tagging Northern Dispatch as the propaganda arm of the New People’s Army. The same troll accounts posted photos of De Vera and Espiritu on the same online platform, accusing them as recruiters for the communist rebels.

The DDoS attack may not be as deadly as those that came before, but the message is the same, loud and clear – they want to silence the critical media. Those who benefit from this exploitative and repressive status quo want our stories to stop.

As we face the challenge of reporting amid this pandemic, the brutal attack against our ranks and this high-tech battering against our information portal, we send the following message:

To our readers, fear not. Our allies in the fight for freedom of the press and expression are helping us to bring our website back. In case this battle drags on, don’t despair. Our commitment remains. We will continue to bring you information and critical insights on issues and events in Northern Luzon in other ways.

To the people, especially the poor and oppressed, rest assured that we will uphold our task to amplify your plight and struggles.

To our colleagues in the media, join us, not only to keep the line taut but also to fight back and move forward.

To the enemies of press freedom and the people’s right to know, threaten us all you want, but we will not be cowed nor silenced. Payt latta! #