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JOURNALISM IS NOT TERRORISM

Journalism is not terrorism. (NUJP image)

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) memorandum ordering the blocking of the two media outfits’ websites, and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s shutdown order against Rappler are part of the systematic campaign against independent media.

These recent incidents aim to drown out the truth on one hand, and to drumbeat disinformation and misinformation on the other hand.

Just recently, the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) once again labeled the NUJP as a communist front.

The red-tagging of journalists is a deliberate attempt to discredit, isolate and render the Philippine media irrelevant. We are not taking all these sitting down.

Today, Bulatlat.com is filing a petition before the Courts to have the NTC order stopped and dismissed. We are fighting back. We will persevere in speaking truth to power. History is on our side. Press freedom will always remain a pillar of every democracy while those who sought to curtail press freedom were always repudiated and consigned to the dustbin of history.

#defendpressfreedom

NUJP, PTFOMS back OSG to have ex-Palawan governor rearrested

Mario Joel Reyes and brother are alleged masterminds in the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for slain Palawan broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega as the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) urged the Supreme Court (SC) to have former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes rearrested as alleged mastermind in the murder case.

The media union said it also supports Reyes’ continued trial in the 11 year case.

“We welcome moves by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) to have him (Reyes) rearrested,” the NUJP said.

In a formal motion earlier this month, the OSG has argued that “essential requisites” are absent in the High Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order that allowed Reyes to leave jail.

“There is now a finding of strong evidence of petitioner’s guilt, there is no invasion, much less a material and substantial invasion of [his] right should he be ordered re-arrested,” the OSG argued.

NUJP said a murder suspect like Reyes who can that evade arrest and go about his political business can influence the case.

“[W]hile Reyes may be within his rights to run for office, it is likely that he does not have the right to do it outside of government custody,” the group said.

NUJP added that Reyes’ temporary freedom may only embolden those who seek to silence the critical press and put the entire media community at greater risk.

PTFOMS supports OSG petition

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) also said it “fully backs and supports” OSG’s move for the lifting of the SC’s March 23, 2022 TRO favoring the alleged mastermind.

“We believe that the evidence of guilt is strong in the criminal case filed against Reyes in connection with the slaying of Gerry Ortega,” PTFOMS executive director and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said in an April 27 statement.

PTFOMS pointed out that Reyes was tagged by his former bodyguard Rodolfo Edrad as the mastermind behind the killing of Ortega, who had criticized the former governor for the supposed destruction of the environment in the province.

Also implicated in the killing is his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes. The two are running for governor and mayor, respectively, in the May 9 elections.

Earlier, Egco also supported OSG’s investigation into the 2018 Court of Appeals decision to release Reyes from detention due to alleged insufficiency of evidence in the murder case.

In 2019, the CA reinstated the murder charges against the former Palawan governor.

Ortega family to press for justice

In a statement issued during a press conference on Wednesday, Ortega’s widow Patty said their family believes the slain broadcaster will still be given justice.

“I believe there is justice. I believe that the Supreme Court will do what is right so justice will prevail,” she said.

Patty said she is grateful to the NUJP, PTFOMs and other groups who have continuously offered support for their quest for justice for her slain husband. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP demands arrest of media killing ‘mastermind’

Joel Reyes campaigning to reclaim Palawan governorship despite arrest warrant

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called for the arrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, alleged mastermind in the killing of Palawan broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011.

In a statement on Ortega’s 11th death anniversary on Monday, January 24, the NUJP said former Palawan governor Joel Reyes is campaigning to reclaim the top provincial post even as he remains a fugitive from law.

“[N]ot only is former governor Joel Reyes evading his warrant of arrest for Ortega’s killing, he is running for Palawan governor, according to news reports, and is campaigning while a subject of a manhunt,” the media group said.

Reyes and brother and former Coron mayor Mario fled the country in 2012 to evade arrest related to Ortega’s murder.

Both were arrested in Phuket, Thailand in September 2015 but were freed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in January 2018.

The appellate court however reversed itself and ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Joel) and to conduct proceedings in Criminal Case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” in November 2019.

“What is clear is that due to a Court of Appeals directive in 2019, the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa had released an arrest warrant against him for [the] murder [of Ortega],” NUJP said.

Reyes is also facing separate graft charges over the alleged misuse of P1.5 billion in Malampaya funds.

Ortega, an environmentalist and known critic of the Reyeses, was the first media killing under the then Benigno Aquino government.

The broadcaster was shot in broad daylight in downtown Puerto Princesa City after leaving radio station DWAR.

The NUJP said the lack of justice over Ortega’s murder and Reyes’ bid for the governorship despite a graft conviction add to the impunity that has surrounded attacks against journalists as well as land and rights defenders.

READ: NUJP: Where is justice in Doc Gerry’s killing?

The group added the lack of justice in Ortega’s killing is emblematic of the culture of impunity in the Philippines, reminding them how the powerful seem to make a mockery of the justice system.

“We stand with the Ortega family, Doc Gerry’s colleagues and friends in the environmental movement and colleagues in the media in calling for justice and in demanding the service of the arrest warrant against Reyes,” NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups reveal renewed Baguio PNP red-tagging of journalists

Media groups slammed renewed efforts by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Baguio City to red-tag journalists it alleges are members of Leftist organizations.

In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said at least two journalists in the Cordillera region have been invited to a fake dialogue with the Baguio City Police earlier this month that turned out to be a witch-hunting activity against journalists and activists.

On January 14, the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club Inc. (BCBC) and NUJP’s Baguio-Benguet chapter said BCBC president Aldwin Quitasol was invited by the Baguio City Police to attend a so-called dialogue that turned out to be part of its Community Support Program White Area Operation (CSP-WAO), a component of the government’s Oplan Kapayapaan targeting suspected sympathizers of communist rebels in conflict-affected areas.

The second journalist refused to be identified.

 ‘Stop red-tagging’

In their joint statement BCBC and NUJP Baguio-Benguet demanded a stop to the red-tagging and witch-hunting of journalists.

“We are strongly concerned by the renewed effort of the (PNP) to drag us in their counterinsurgency campaign through Dumanon, Makitongtong (Seek and Talk), which the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) adopted from Oplan Tokhang of the Duterte administration,” the local media groups said.

Whatever name it carries, the PNP’s counter-insurgency campaigns involving journalists as well as activists aims to harass and intimidate, they added.

“We urge law enforcers to cease this madness, stop targeting activists and the media in their counterinsurgency actions. We also call on local governments to take a stand and protect the people against institutionalized red-tagging and political vilification,” BCBC and NUJP Baguio-Benguet said.

Human rights violations

This month’s incident is not the first time that Baguio City Police has accused journalists of links to supposed Communist fronts.

In February 2021, the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee in CAR endorsed tokhang-type campaigns against alleged left-leaning personalities, including activists and the media.

The proposal was quietly dropped after widespread criticism, but police officials last August revived the proposal for the so-called seek and talk strategy against alleged members of left-leaning organizations, the NUJP said.

Cases of red-tagging in the Cordillera Administrative Region rose to 15 incidents in 2021 from eight complaints filed in 2020, the NUJP, quoting the Cordillera office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-Cordillera), said.

The campaign is patterned after the tokhang campaign used in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s so-called war on drugs that, according to government data, has killed at least 6,000 victims, it added.

Following earlier police summons of Quitasol, CHR-Cordillera in June 2021 issued a resolution warning that red-tagging — linking individuals and groups to the communist armed rebellion — violates human rights.

Other rights organizations, including the UN Human Rights Office, have also warned against the practice, which they said can lead to harassment and physical attacks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups slam energy secretary’s libel charges against 18 journalists

Media groups said the multiple libel charges filed against seven news outfits and 18 reporters by a Rodrigo Duterte government official and a campaign donor are meant to intimidate journalists from reporting perceived corruption in government.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP), and the Cebu City Press Council (CCPC) said in separate statements they deplore the libel charges filed last week by energy secretary Alfonso Cusi and Duterte campaign donor Dennis Uy against the news outfits.

“These complaints, filed at the same time across seven news organizations, are clear harassment suits meant to intimidate and chill the press,” the NUJP said.

“We view the libel complaints filed against seven news organizations as an assault to press freedom. It sends a chilling effect as this clearly signals that the media would incur the ire of government officials and businessmen even if they do their best to ensure that their stories are factual, accurate and objective,” the EJAP said.

“If Cusi didn’t know basic journalism and constitutional protection of free press and free speech, his publicists and lawyers do. We, in the community media, share the distress of the country’s journalists over the Cusi lawsuit,” the CCPC for its part said.

MALAMPAYA DEAL COMPLAINTS

Cusi announced Friday, December 3, he filed libel charges before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office last against 18 Manila Bulletin, ABS-CBN News, BusinessWorld, Rappler, Philippine Star, GMA News, and Business Mirror journalists and officials.

In his statement, Cusi said he filed the complaint last November 29 “to defend his family’s honor, and to send a strong message that there is a fair and humane way to settle misunderstandings and differences without resorting to malicious news reporting.”

Uy reportedly filed counts of libel and cyberlibel against Business World’s Wilfredo Reyes and Bianca Angelica Añago; Anjo Bagaoisan of ABS-CBN; Benjamin Ramos of Business Mirror; and private citizen Rodel Rodis.

Cusi and Uy’s charges stemmed from October 19 news reports on a graft complaint filed against the pair by Balgamel de Belen Domingo, Loida Nicolas-Lewis and Rodis before the Ombudsman.

The complainants allege that Cusi, along with other respondents, conspired to favor Uy’s Udenna Corporation in the sale of Chevron’s share and transfer of rights in the Malampaya Project.

Domingo, Nicolas-Lewis and Rodis said the supposed irregular transaction resulted in “a minimum of over P21 (billion) to P42 billion in total losses to the government.”

‘DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL’

The Energy secretary demands the news organizations and the journalists pay P200 million in fines for damaging his “reputation and good standing in government.”

The NUJP however said the amount from each of the seven news organizations could cripple them if enforced.

“Even if it isn’t, the lawyers’ fees that these news organizations would have to pay to answer the complaints and the time it would take to address them — time that could be spent on reporting — are enough to send a chill,” the group said.

“It is meant to say: be careful what you report next. It is the textbook definition of a chilling effect,” it added.

The NUJP, EJAP and the CCPC said the subjects of the libel complaints were news reports based on a press conference, a press release, and a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman that are “all fair game in journalism, especially that it is about a public official involving a tax-funded project.”

“The journalists did not accuse him; the complainants did. The journalists only covered the complaint,” the NUJP added.

The NUJP and EJAP said they reiterate calls to decriminalize libel. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHR: Democracy needs a free press

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) underscored the role of a free press in a democracy, even as it noted the Philippines’ steady decline in the World Press Freedom Index in the last four years.

In her keynote message for a journalists and human rights defenders’ project Friday, May 28, CHR executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said democracy needs a free press to thrive and survive.

“It is the power of a free and independent media—to be a watchdog, to promote transparency and accountability, and to amplify the voices of the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized—that put pressure on government to be responsive to the needs of the people,” de Guia said.

De Guia however expressed alarm at the state of press freedom in the country, adding that international group Reporters Without Borders has noted continuing attacks against mass media, journalists and other human rights defenders in the past four years.

“The state of press freedom in the country is a cause for concern for CHR. In the past four years, data from the World Press Freedom Index shows a continuous decline of the Philippines from 133rd out of 180 countries in 2018; to 134th in 2019; 136th in 2020; and 138th in 2021,” de Guia said.

De Guia spoke at the project launch of Safeguarding Journalists and Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines by various media groups led by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication and the International Media Service.

Other attendees included members of the Journalists Safety Advisory Group (JSAG) that crafted the Philippine Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists (PPASJ) last November 2019 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre.

The JSAG included the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Center for Community Journalism and Development, and the Philippine Press Institute.

Commission on Human Rights executive director and spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia. (AIJC photo)

In her address, de Guia said the press must maintain its ability to expose corruption, demand redress of grievances, and call out lies and propaganda in favor of truth.

She added that the press must equally allow the people to decide better and demand more from the government that bears the obligation to uphold and protect the human rights of all.

The last four years have seen journalists, media workers, and media organisations being repeatedly confronted by a dangerous and hostile climate marked by episodes of harassment, silencing, and even death.

“And with the closure of ABS-CBN, we have greatly felt the gap in delivering critical information in hard-to-reach communities to help them cope and survive disasters, calamities, and this current Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

De Guia said that the CHR’s Task Force on Media-Related EJKs (extrajudicial killings), with regional desks in its Bicol, Cotabato and Cebu regional offices, is ready to investigate attacks against the press.

“Thus far, 21 media killings have been docketed for investigation in different CHR regional offices covering July 2016 to May 2021. We are also investigating 7 cases involving 20 victims of other alleged human rights violations, including unlawful/arbitrary arrest/detention, frustrated killings, and red-tagging,” she said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Habang lumiliit ang democratic space, mas kinakailangan nating itulak na maging malaya’

“Napakahalaga, lalo na sa panahon ng pandemya, ang tapat at malayang pagbabalita. Habang patuloy tayong pinipilit na sumabay sa opisyal na pahayag ng pamahalaan at habang lumiliit ang democratic space sa Pilipinas, mas kinakailangan nating itulak na maging malaya.”Jonathan de Santos, Chairperson, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

NUJP slams CamNorte order barring journalists from covering SP sessions

A media group condemned a Camarines Norte Provincial Council resolution barring journalists from covering its sessions unless they present a negative antigen test.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the inclusion of media practitioners among guests and observers who must prove they are not infected with the virus constitutes prior restraint.

“The battle against the spread of the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to impose prior restraint. While we recognize the alarming rate of COVID-19 infection, the burden of ensuring safety protocols should not be with journalists but with the local government,” the NUJP said.

Last week, the council approved a resolution requiring a negative rapid antigen test result for all non-Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) personnel who wish to cover the sessions.

The resolution said it aims to protect the members and staff of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan against COVID-19.

The NUJP however said the resolution would prevent the media from playing its role as a watchdog of the government.

“All sessions should be done publicly and should be open to all media practitioners covering the SP. It is repressive to require the media to spend P2,000 – P2,300 pesos weekly for the rapid antigen test given the financial constraint of local newsrooms,” the group explained.

“NUJP reiterates its stand that the media should be treated as frontliners, hence should be covered by free routine COVID-19 tests,” it said, adding it is the duty of the local government to provide free testing to all local media covering the sessions.

To provide further protection for all those present during council sessions, the NUJP also recommended the local government also should designate media area to separate them from the guests and observers in the session hall.

Sixteen local media practitioners in the province also signed a petition against the resolution. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups slam Duterte’s personal vendetta vs ABS-CBN, challenge Congress to prove independence

Groups condemned Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirade against ABS-CBN, saying the President only proved vindictiveness in announcing he will defy Congress should it pass a new franchise law for the network.

The group Pirma Kapamilya slammed Duterte’s recent statement that he will order the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to issue ABS-CBN a permit to operate even if a franchise law is passed.

“His recent pronouncement reveals that last year’s denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise was nothing more but his personal vendetta at the expense of the viewing public, press freedom, and of the displaced employees of the network,” Pirma Kapamilya in a statement said.

“This is a symptom of his toxic ‘personalan politics’ not needed at this crucial time,” the group added.

Pirma Kapamilya is a volunteer group gathering signatures for a people’s initiative for a new franchise law for the network.

In his latest Monday night public address, Duterte accused Congress is planning to restore the broadcast franchise of the Lopezes.

“I don’t have a problem if Congress restores it. But if you say that if they can operate if they already have a franchise, no. I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate,” Duterte said.

He again accused ABS-CBN of being a tax evader.

“Unless and until taxes are paid, I will ignore your franchise. I will not give them the license to operate. That’s nonsense. It’s like giving them a prize for committing criminal acts,” Duterte said.

Pirma Kapamilya however said Duterte continues to spread lies about the tax issue of the network even as the Bureau of Internal Revenue BIR cleared the network of any tax obligations.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) challenged the House of Representatives to prove its independence and finally grant ABS-CBN its franchise.

“We are tempted to thank President Rodrigo Duterte for proving us right about what we have been saying all along, that the shutdown of ABS-CBN was a personal vendetta that a lapdog Congress helped seal,” it said.

“Perhaps it is not too late for the members of the House of Representatives to salvage their reputations, to prove that they are what the Constitution charges them to be, members of a co-equal and INDEPENDENT branch of government, and no longer the willing accomplices to the continuing siege on press freedom and all our other rights and liberties,” the NUJP added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)