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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. #

Peace advocates slam red-tagging as a ‘work of evil’; call for peace talks resumption

By Joseph Cuevas

Peace advocates held a media briefing last Wednesday, November 11, to condemn red and terror-tagging activities they say undermine efforts to resume peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The group Pilgrims for Peace pointed out that if the GRP still wants to resume negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), it should stop calling the underground groups as terrorists.

It also pointed out that the NDFP is not classified as a terrorist organization even in the government’s own official pronouncements.

The advocates are dismayed that “war and terror-mongering are rearing their ugly heads once again, as a dominant trend in the current conduct by the GRP.”

Fr. Christopher Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente described the red-tagging activities of government agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and some officials of the government as a “work of evil” that directly hurts peace efforts.

Ablon cited that six out of seven victims of extra-judicial killings of church workers and peace advocates red-tagged.

Not terrorist organizations

Atty. Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the NDFP, said that red-tagging and vilification violates the presumption of innocence and human rights of target, especially the right to association.

The practice of red-tagging, especially by the state forces and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, has no other real purpose but to silence dissent and criticism and repress opposition and counter-narratives against government policies and actions, Olalia explained.

“Red-tagging together with the draconian measures like the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Law turn the state forces and machinery against such unarmed civilians and groups who are exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms in a democratic society,” Olalia said.

Olalia pointed-out that the CPP-NPA-NDF possesses a level of legitimacy while their armed resistance abide by standards set by the United Nations resolutions and conventions.

“The CPP and NPA have not been listed as a terrorist organizations by the United Nations and the NDFP has never been [listed as] a terrorist organizations in any country,” Olalia added.

Olalia said that red-tagging conditions the mind of the public to eventually designate legal organizations and individuals as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

NDFP peace consultant and long-time activist Rafael Baylosis stressed that CPP-NPA-NDF must not be called terrorist organizations but entities fighting for national liberation and democracy for the people.

Talks resumption

Baylosis said that peace negotiations must be resumed and the Duterte government should rescind its terrorist proclamation of the CPP and the NPA.

He also called on the government to respect previous agreements signed by both parties.

Baylosis recalled the cancelled fifth round of peace talks last 2018 that was set to sign the Interim Peace Agreement that included the common draft on social and economic reforms, the coordinated and unilateral ceasefire, and release of all political prisoners thru general amnesty.

Pilgrims for Peace encouraged the GRP to consider resuming the peace talks anew in order to address the root cause of armed conflict through peace negotiations. #

IBON opens to gov’t inspection days before anti-terrorism law effectivity

With the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) soon coming into effect, research group IBON opened their office for inspection by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Bgy. Sacred Heart officials last Wednesday, July 15.

The group said they requested the ocular inspection to show their transparency and prove the absence of illegal materials and equipment on the premises.

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“This is an important contribution to IBON asserting its character as a legitimate organization that does not, never has, and never will have the guns, explosives, and other illegal items that are wont to be planted to justify spurious search warrants and bogus charges against activists and human rights defenders,” the group’s executive director Sonny Africa said.

The group said that it also wants to protect the rights and ensure the safety of IBON staff and tenants.

IBON Foundation said the inspection is in anticipation of the ATL which is presumed to become effective on July 18.

The group recalled the Duterte administration’s continued disinformation drive about IBON which appears to be laying the groundwork for using the ATL against it.

Africa expressed concern that the draconian and oppressive law will be used to try and hinder IBON’s research, education and advocacy work.

The CHR first inspected IBON premises in November 2019 after a reported imminent police operation on its building.

It confirmed the absence of anything illegal, irregular, or prohibited on the premises.

IBON is among many non-government organizations actively red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) since late 2018. 

The group has repeatedly refuted allegations by the government task force that it supports terrorism.

The IBON building also houses AlterMidya and IBON International who are also targets of government harassment and red-tagging.

Last February, IBON lodged a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against NTF-ELCAC officials: National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon; Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Operations Brigadier General Antonio Parlade; and Presidential Communications and Operations Office secretary Lorraine Badoy. This was for their malicious and baseless red-tagging of IBON since 2018.

IBON said that it supports petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law filed at the Supreme Court.

The law must be declared unconstitutional for being overly vague in its definition of terrorism. It gives room to target economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights defenders and in doing so undermines prospects for economic democracy, human rights and social justice. These are if anything more crucial than ever at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the group. #