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Court summons served to 2 tech companies over cyber-attacks vs alternative news

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A court summon has been served Thursday, April 11, to two tech companies facing a civil complaint before a Quezon City court over the cyber-attacks against several alternative news agencies in the Philippines.

“We welcome the serving of the summons before the two tech companies that were traced as sources of the cyberattacks against our sites, according to the digital forensic investigation of Sweden-based group Qurium,” said Rhea Padilla, national coordinator of AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network, an umbrella organization of at least 30 alternative news agencies in the Philippines and one of the plaintiffs in the complaint.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer spokesperson Josalee Deinla told Bulatlat that the two tech companies namely IP Converge and Suniway Group of Companies are expected to submit their respective answers to the filed complaint in 15 days.

After this, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 220 will schedule the pre-trial, Deinla added.

Padilla said, “this is a first in many steps to find out who are behind this vicious bid to silence critical media and stifle freedom of expression in the country.”

On March 29, marking the 25th year since the first ever internet connection in the Philippines, four alternative news agencies filed a civil complaint over the relentless cyber-attacks in the form of Distributed Denial of Service.

Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation, as stated on its digital forensic report, was able to unmask and trace the real IP addresses behind the cyber-attacks, which was allegedly carried out via the infrastructure of the two tech companies.

Bulatlat, through its publisher Alipato Media Center, is among the four plaintiffs in the civil complaint, along with Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly and Altermidya.  #

Alternative media outfits fight back, file complaints vs. cyber-attacks

Alternative media outfits identified two companies where the intense cyber attacks against them since December are coming from.

Bulatlat, Kodao, and Pinoy Weekly, as well as the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) filed a civil complaint at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court this morning against IP Converge Data Services, Inc. and Suniway Group of Companies they believe are where the cyber-attacks are coming from.

“Through the solid and thorough digital forensic investigation of Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation over time, it was discovered that the cyber-attacks were coming from companies IP Converge and Suniway,” Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla said.

According to their respective websites, IP Converge Data Services, Inc. is the country’s first cloud services provider while Suniway is an internet services provider.

Exposed IP addresses

Padilla said the digital forensic report revealed that despite hiding behind a Virtual Private Network (VPN), one of the attackers exposed their real IP addresses when they accessed the website without turning on their hidden IPs.

In another instance, one of the attackers also revealed his IP address when he used his Samsung Android phone to check the websites of alternative media groups under attack.

The exposed IP addresses, she added, may easily be traced to IP Converge based on the findings of Qurium.

Meanwhile, Qurium learned that the infrastructure of networks being used to launch the attacks belongs to Suniway, which holds business addresses both in Hong Kong and in the Philippines with two Chinese national listed as among its officers.

“The user agents who conducted the attacks using devices within the premises and under the control and supervision of Defendants IP Converge and Suniway are unidentified at this point,” their complaint said.

First-ever complaint

Padilla said their civil complaint against cyber-attackers is the first ever in the Philippines.

“This is definitely a first and it will serve as a testament that we will neither be cowed nor will we allow these cyber-attacks to continue,” Padilla said.

The complainants were assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Since December 2018, alternative media sites have been subjected to sustained cyber-attacks in the form of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

DDoS refers to the malicious attempt to overload the server of a website, aimed to shut it down.

Padilla said this kind of attack “denies legitimate readers of access to truthful reports.”

“Plaintiffs have reasonable ground to believe that there are more than one of them, each one targeting a particular organization,” their complaint said.

Padilla added that launching a cyber-attack with this kind of magnitude and immensity is impossible without the knowledge of the companies.

The alternative media outfits maintained that these relentless cyber-attacks are politically-motivated.

They called on the two companies to reveal their real clients.

“We believe these attacks are state-sponsored and are part of the Duterte administration’s attempt to stifle press freedom in the country. It seems cyber censorship is one of the administration’s tactics to make way for an open dictatorial rule,” Padilla said.

The filing of the complaint coincided with the 25th anniversary of the internet in the Philippines.

In March 29, 1994, the first ever internet message were sent between the University of San Carlos in Cebu City and Syracuse University in New York. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Netizens’ free expression in grave threat with cyberlibel conviction

THE CONVICTION of two radio broadcasters in Kidapawan City for simply expressing their opinion in social media –supposedly meant to provide an avenue for personal opinions and narratives – is the latest attack on free expression not only of media practitioners but of everyone who dare share their stand on burning issues. Their conviction may well be a signal that will herald a new wave of attacks against free speech and expression, rights that are in fact enshrined in our very own Constitution.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the conviction meted by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kidapawan City to broadcasters Eric Rodinas of Radyo Natin and Larry Baja Subillaga who were charged with online libel by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza.
In a decision dated March 22, the Kidapawan RTC convicted the two broadcasters of online libel with a penalty imprisonment ranging from a minimum of 4 years and one day to a maximum of 8 years and one day. The broadcasters were also ordered to pay P1 million fine, P1 million for moral damages, and P500,000 for examplary damages.

The case sprung from what Governor Taliño-Mendoza labelled as “malicious” statements posted by the two in their social media accounts last March 2017. In his Facebook post, Subillaga said that Taliño-Mendoza was fooling the people of the province, while Dugaduga said the governor became rich because of corruption. The broadcasters said that they will appeal their conviction before the Supreme Court.

This latest development proves what we have been pointing out ever since the passage of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012: that it can be exploited to silence criticism by well-entrenched and powerful people, especially government officials. RA 10175 not only criminalizes libel – something that has long been clamored to be decriminalized – but also sets penalties “one degree higher” than that provided for libel in the Revised Penal Code.

Weaponizing online libel adds to the long list of attacks perpetrated by state forces to the media, which include harassment of journalists, cyber attacks on newssites, legal debacles, and most heinously, killings. This latest development only intensifies the reigning climate of impunity brutely cultivated and propagated by the current administration. Online libel is yet another lethal weapon that can be abused to silence criticism by an apparent insecure government afraid of the truth. We reiterate our call to repeal the anti-cybercrime law, decriminalize libel, and to put a stop to all forms of attacks against legitimate dissent and free speech.

OVERCOME CYBER-MARTIAL LAW

POOLED EDITORIAL

People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya)

12 March 2019

March 12 is World Day against Cyber Censorship, when advocates around the globe will call for an Internet that is not only accessible to all, but also free from restrictions on free speech. It is specially relevant to us today, when our nation is practically under cyber martial law and another tyranny.

The Duterte regime is using every means to silence dissent, criticism and free expression: from threats, incarceration to killings, to cyber warfare. The main target of this latest assault are the alternative media that mostly via online disseminate reports and views on events and issues that are rarely covered, if at all, by the dominant media. The goal is to deny a public hungry for information the reports and stories that it needs to understand what is happening in a country besieged by lies and disinformation.

The distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against the websites of Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly, and Altermidya began in December and have not stopped since. DDoS is a malicious form of cyber-attack that aims to overload a website and make it inaccessible.

The websites of Arkibong Bayan, Manila Today and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) have also been attacked, and so have the websites of human rights group Karapatan, Arkibong Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and lately, Ibon Foundation.

Qurium, the Sweden-based media foundation assisting Bulatlat, Altermidya, Karapatan and Pinoy Weekly, has established that the same techniques and botnets are being used against these websites. An independent review of Kodao Productions’ traffic logs also revealed the same attack signatures.  Quirium noted that it has not seen the same scale of DDoS attacks in any other country.

The details of the attacks have been reported to the National Computer Emergency Response Team (NCERT) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. But the agency has remained alarmingly silent on the issue.

We have every reason to believe that these attacks are state-sponsored. In the past two years, cyber warfare has taken the form of vilification and redbaiting of progressive leaders and organizations through social media.

The Duterte administration identifies “strategic communication” as one of the pillars of its “whole of nation” approach against dissent and criticism, in which the regime’s counterinsurgency program will infiltrate and target social media and rid cyberspace of  “communist propaganda.”

The cyber attacks are part and parcel of the ongoing assault by the administration on the media. From threatening to revoke the franchises of big media companies to the attempt at the incarceration of Rappler executive Maria Ressa, to the killing of community journalists in the past months, the Duterte administration will stop at nothing to silence the Fourth Estate and its critics.

But Duterte and his keyboard and old-media army of mercenaries are hell-bent not only in silencing their perceived enemies, but also in expanding the echo chambers they maintain to create the illusion of continued support. On one hand, they attack news websites and journalists in all possible ways. On the other, they maintain a horde of fake supporters, employing what is known as “astroturfing” or the practice of creating the illusion of mass support by employing bots and trolls.

The alternative media have consistently upheld journalism for the people and given voice to the marginalized and the oppressed. Because of the political and economic interests of the corporate media, it is the alternative media that are discharging the democratic imperative of providing the information Filipinos need in this hour of national peril.  

We enjoin everyone from all walks of life to unite against, to expose, and to work together in stopping the attacks against all media. We should exhaust all means to make those responsible accountable for their foul deeds.  There are many technical and legal remedies that can and must be pursued to combat and halt the unabated DDoS attacks, including mirroring target websites to keep them online.

To defend press freedom is to defend the people’s right to know. As our fellow journalists and advocates continue to expose the truths on the attacks on indigenous communities, workers, farmers, and other groups, we ask all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand with us. Only through the strength and power of our unity can we defeat these brazen attempts at silencing protest and suppressing the truth.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2443783208966707&id=216155061729544

Espina-Varona wins international award for journalists

A Filipino won one of the most prestigious global awards for journalists for her resistance to “financial, political, economic or religious pressures or because of the values and rules that enable them to resist” in reporting on issues that are sensitive in the Philippines.

Cited for her many reports on child prostitution, violence against women, LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgenders) issues and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao, veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona was awarded the Prize for Independence by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in London Thursday, November 8.

In her acceptance speech, Espina-Varona shared the honor with her “embattled Philippine colleagues: the 185 killed since the 1986 restoration of a fragile, perpetually threatened democracy, 12 of them in the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule.”

“This is also for colleagues who face death threats, vilification campaigns, and revocation of access to coverage, for doing what journalists are supposed to do — questioning official acts and claims, especially on issues of human rights and corruption,” she added.

Varona said other threats are more insidious — like having journalists becoming witnesses to cases filed by cops in the aftermath of raids, practically a quid pro quo for continued access to police operations.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is launching the “Sign Against The Sign” campaign to repeal the law that fuels the practice today in Quezon City.

“There is another grave problem we face: the proposed draconian changes to the law that would make terrorists of practically all critics of the government and make journalists and media accessories whenever we give voice to persons and groups the government deems ‘terrorist’ — practically all dissenters,” Espina-Varona added.

She said she is proud of Philippine journalism, of colleagues who probe not only the effects of growing autocracy, but also the roots of social woes that allowed a false messiah to bedazzle Filipinos.

“If I am independent, it is because there are colleagues and fellow citizens who fight for rights and freedoms, who refuse to be silent in the face of thousands of murders and other injustices, who fight on despite threats, arrests and torture, whose words and deeds speak from beyond the grave,” Espina-Varona said.

“Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years. And we are brave because our people are brave,” she added.

Espina-Varona said Filipino journalists cannot let the Filipino people down, nor allow them to forget the country’s dark past as well as their triumph against it.

The NUJP congratulated Espina-Varona for the award in a statement Friday, thanking its former president for recognizing the role independent Filipino journalists played in defending and advancing the Filipino people’s rights and liberties.

The NUJP also thanked the awardee for her recognition of journalists who defend democracy “despite the dangers they face, not least from the very forces supposedly sworn to protect and preserve our freedoms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NutriAsia guards, Meycauayan police deliberately attack journalists

During the violent dispersal of striking NutriAsia workers and their supporters last Monday, July 30, company guards and Meycauayan police under the direct supervision of Superintendent Santos Mera attacked and arrested without provocation members of the media covering the incident.

This video is a collection of actual footage by Kodao and Altermidya reporters who were arrested and hurt, as well as Supt. Mera’s illegal efforts to prevent others to inquire with him if they arrested the five journalists.

Police denies Kodao’s inquiry on arrested journos

Kodao Productions went to the police station in Meycauayan, Bulacan Monday afternoon to cover and verify the arrest of fellow Altermidya reporters. This is an audio recording of the exchange between Kodao executive director Jola Diones-Mamangun and police officers inside the police station. (Editing by Film Weekly)

On its 32nd anniversary: NUJP members attacked by Nutriasia guards July 30, 2018

(UPDATED) On its 32nd anniversary: NUJP members attacked by Nutriasia guards, arrested
July 30, 2018

As the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines marked the 32nd anniversary of our founding, a number of our members, including the deputy secretary general of our Nueva Ecija chapter, were attacked, threatened and arrested as they covered the violent dispersal of striking workers at the NutriAsia factory in Marilao, Bulacan Monday afternoon.

We denounce the security personnel of NutriAsia for deliberately targeting journalists and the Bulacan police not only for failing to prevent or stop this outrage from happening but, even worse, arresting five colleagues, making false claims about them, and then preventing other journalists from inquiring after them and covering their detention.

Nueva Ecija chapter deputy secretary general Rosemarie Alcaraz was covering the ecumenical service and the violence that followed it for Radyo Natin-Guimba. As she took video of the dispersal, a guard advised her to go behind them. However, when she complied, she was struck on her right thigh with a truncheon, driving her to seek shelter in a makeshift hut erected by the striking workers.

Joseph Cuevas, reporter of Kodao Productions, on the other hand, was confronted by guards who threatened to destroy his camera unless he stopped filming.

Both reporters were wearing identification cards that clearly marked them as journalists.

Meanwhile, colleagues on the ground have confirmed that among the 19 persons arrested during the dispersal and its aftermath were Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza, who were on coverage for AlterMidya, and Jon Angelo Bonifacio of the UP Diliman publication Scientia.

Kodao and AlterMiday are NUJP affiliates.

When Jola Diones-Mamangun of Kodao Productions went to the Meycauayan police station, she was denied access to documents. And when she asked about her arrested AlterMidya colleagues, was told that drugs and guns had been recovered from them, an obviously false and ridiculous claim.

Other colleagues also quoted Meycauyan chief of police Superintendent Santos Mera of claiming they needed permits before they could cover events at the police station.

The assault, threats and arrests of our colleagues is a clear attack on press freedom and highlights the increasing dangers journalists face in these increasingly troubled times.

We demand that the Meycauayan police immediately release Saturay, Tandoc, Ang, Caluza and Bonifacio. We demand just as strongly that they forget the ludicrous notion of filing trumped up criminal charges against our colleagues. It will surely backfire – and very badly – on you.

We likewise call on Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde to initiate an immediate investigation into this clear abuse of authority by his subordinates, particularly Mera, and impose the necessary sanctions.

It would bode ill for our already imperiled democracy if the very people sworn to serve and protect the citizenry are themselves responsible for violating our basic rights and liberties and flouting the law.

We will extend all possible assistance to our beleaguered colleagues in making sure those responsible for this assault are held accountable.

Former UP dean launches workshop on ethical reporting

By April Burcer

“One of the most common flaws of Philippine media is lack of context in reporting,” former dean of the College of Mass Communications in UP Diliman Luis Teodoro pointed out during his workshop on journalism ethics yesterday.

Organized by the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), the workshop aimed to remind young media practitioners about the importance of adhering to ethical standards when reporting and to discuss the common ethical problems in the Philippine press.

Lack of context, according to Teodoro, is both a professional and ethical failing because people can’t make sense of what the story is all about.

He cited conflict reporting as an example, particularly the Marawi siege and the 2001 military campaign against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).

“During the Marawi siege, 90 percent of the coverage was in the conduct of the war. There is hardly any context. Same with the 2001 military attacks which the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) analyzed, showing that out of 6000 articles, only seven provided context,” Teodoro said.

Social issues and the Philippine Press

Teodoro criticized the Philippine media for failing to provide context on the social issues they are covering, including poverty, contractualization, unemployment, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive against so-called loiterers.

“The most crucial thing about the Filipino society is its poverty. There are 22 million Filipinos in extreme want and 50 million others who are vulnerable to the vicissitudes of living in the Philippines. Much of the reporting has to be about poverty and its related consequences and implications,” the former dean said.

He also said that not all ‘tambays’ (loiterers) are lazy or criminals, and that most of them are victims of labor only contractualization, poverty and poor housing conditions.

“The media have to be reporting all of these. Are they reporting these? Are they doing a good job of reporting these?” he asked.

He also noted that the social issues are given more exposure in social media than in the Philippine media.

Ethical Problems in the Philippine Press

According to Teodoro, being accurate is very important, especially today in the era of alternative truth and fake news, saying “false information can be very dangerous.”

He also emphasized the importance of adhering to the rules of journalism at a time when ordinary citizens and non-journalists can practice journalistic work.

“The press has the capacity to help transform society. It can do this by being true to the ethical standards that for many years have been established,” Teodoro advised.

Teodoro, Altermidya chairperson, is a retired Journalism professor in UP College of Mass Communication, a noted author and resource speaker on journalism ethics, media education and other media issues for various workshops, seminars and conferences in the Philippines and abroad. #

POOLED EDITORIAL: Seven years of injustice for Ampatuan victims, reign of impunity must end

by the People’s Alternative Media Network

THAT JUSTICE remains elusive seven years since the Ampatuan massacre proves how the culture of impunity persists today. We are alarmed that recent events including the Marcos burial and continuing extrajudicial killings not only of alleged drug personalities but also of activists and journalists feed such an environment under the Duterte administration.

The same environment of impunity is the appalling circumstance that allowed the suspected Ampatuan clan to kill all 58 people, including 32 journalists, in broad daylight on November 23, 2009. This climate of unaccountability continues to embolden perpetrators to continue committing the worst crimes against Filipinos.

We are further concerned that the appointment of former Ampatuan counsel Salvador Panelo as one of Duterte’s top officials makes the struggle for justice for the 58 victims and to make those behind the massacre accountable even more difficult.

All these dampen hopes that justice will be served soon, even as Duterte recently created a presidential task force to investigate media killings. The still unsolved cases of media killings, Duterte’s reckless pronouncement justifying the killing of “corrupt” journalists, and the escalating impunity do not give us any assurance that the country – regarded as among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists – will be a safe environment for media workers soon.

Seven long years have passed since the Ampatuan massacre, but not a single conviction has been made. The slow and flawed judicial process is a source of agony for the bereaved families waiting for justice. The perpetrators, after all these years, continue to succeed in prolonging the legal proceedings and preventing the trial’s conclusion.

We cannot underscore enough the importance of the Ampatuan Massacre in the Filipino people’s fight against the climate of impunity. The prolonged injustice for the Ampatuan victims is unacceptable as it further encourages the continuing attacks against human rights in the country.

We demand that the long-overdue justice be given to the Ampatuan victims and for the massacre trial to be completed without delay. We call on the Duterte administration to put a stop to the killings, harassment and human rights violations not only of journalists but also of human rights advocates, activists, and others. We call on the government to protect and uphold people’s rights, and to immediately end the reign of impunity in the country. #