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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.

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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. #

STATEMENT: Journalists are not the enemy

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte errs in declaring that most journalists are being killed for being corrupt and in implying that only corrupt journalists have been killed in the Philippines. While corruption is a continuing problem in the press and media, it is simply not true that most of the journalists killed in the line of duty were killed because they were corrupt. On the contrary. Most of those killed were in fact exposing corruption and criminal activities in the communities, and for their social and political advocacies. The Pagadian city journalist Edgar Damalerio was killed in 2003 for exposing wrongdoing in the local government; Marlene Esperat was killed in Tacurong city for exposing anomalies in the Department of Agriculture; and Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega was killed for his environmental advocacy in Puerto Princesa. Read more

Kodao’s Villanueva accepts Titus Brands Award

Kodao Productions’ Raymund Villanueva was awarded the Titus Brandsma Award 2015 for Emerging Leadership in Journalism in a ceremony last November 27.

The award is given to an “outstanding young journalist who possesses an impressive and commendable track record in his or her professional performance and who has shown fidelity to the journalism code of ethics.”

The award is also given to journalists for their “use of the tools of media in fresh and innovative ways and has displayed courage in speaking the truth about issues involving peace, social justice, and the integrity of creation.”

The Titus Brandsma Award is a biennial recognition of outstanding journalists and social communication practitioners given by the Order of Carmelites in the Philippines.

This year’s award is the seventh time the awards have been held. Villanueva is the only second recipient of the Emerging Leadership in Journalism award.

Asian Institute for Journalism and Communication president Florangel Rosario Braid, PhD served as this year’s jury chair.

In this acceptance speech, Villanueva cited Kodao’s efforts to establish community radio stations for vulnerable communities all over the country.

He also mentioned Kodao’s workshops and training for marginalized sectors in the Philippines and abroad.

Villanueva is a veteran broadcaster, journalist and photographer for various alternative media organizations. He is now head of Kodao’s radio department.

This is a video of Villanueva’s acceptance speech.

ALTERMIDYA EDITORIAL: Ampatuan Massacre, a grim symbol of reigning impunity under Aquino

23 November 2015

It is Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s last year in office but justice remains elusive for the victims of Ampatuan massacre. No perpetrator has been convicted, the victims still cry for justice. Aquino’s vow six years ago to immediately resolve the gruesome massacre has become a hollow promise: the culture of impunity and sheer lack of accountability continues to reign under his administration.

The Ampatuan massacre, considered as the single most violent incident in the history of Philippine media, claimed the lives of 58 people including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009. The case against the alleged masterminds, the Ampatuan warlord clan, moves painfully slow.

The court case, after six years, is still at its preliminary stage at gathering evidence and bail proceedings. One of the primary suspects, Ampatuan patriarch, former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. died early this year of liver cancer, extinguishing his criminal liability in the massacre case. Another suspect, Sajid Ampatuan, was released and is running for mayor of Shariff Aguak, under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay, in the 2016 polls. Majority of the suspects including members of the clan’s private army and several police officers are still at large or were granted bail.

The gross failure and lack of interest of the Aquino government to swiftly bring justice to the victims and end impunity continues to cultivate a dangerous atmosphere for Filipinos, media worker or not. After the Ampatuan massacre, the killing of journalists persists under Aquino’s term. The recent killing of DWIZ correspondent Jose Bernardo brings the total number of murdered journalists to 30 under the Aquino administration and 150 since 1986.

Extrajudicial killings of political activists, human rights defenders, indigenous people, and community leaders continue. Threats and harassment of state critics are intensifying. All these are a bleak reminder of the escalating impunity in the country and the ineptness of government that breeds it.

Six years of waiting has been enough. The Ampatuan massacre is a pivotal issue in the people’s struggle against growing impunity. Another day of delay in bringing justice to the 58 victims is another license for greater human rights violations and unaccountability in the country. We could no longer allow this government, or the next, to continue this injustice. We hold the Aquino government accountable for this injustice as well as its own crimes against the people.  We would persist in demanding for justice for the victims and their families of the Ampatuan massacre, and all cases of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

Accountability for these murders, for political repression, the absence of justice, and the persisting culture of impunity are all the responsibility of the President and the State. #

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Altermidya-People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals. Kodao Productions is a founding member of Altermidya.