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Groups condemn red-tagging of 2 CDO journalists

Media groups condemned the worsening attacks against the press in the Philippines following the death threat against Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo Vicente Corrales, who is also alleged to have a P1 million bounty on his head.

In a press conference, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) raised concerns over the red-tagging of Corrales, along with veteran journalist Froilan Gallardo of MindaNews.

On August 27, Corrales received flyers sent via courier service alleging that both him and Gallardo are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

The courier packet, sent on August 24, identified the sender as Danilo Tirso Mantangan of Sitio Camansi, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental with mobile phone number 09091020123.

“It’s an attempt to brand journalists as combatant parties of the conflict, instead of journalists and civilians,” NUJP Western Mindanao safety officer JB Deveza said.

Deveza pointed out that the flyers also attacked the credibility of the journalists by describing them as “biased” and “supporters of terrorist organizations.”

“We expect that this is not going away soon,” Deveza said, explaining the need “to express our outrage and for the state to do something about it.”

“It does not only endanger the life of our colleagues but also depriving the community of fair and unbiased reporting,” he added.

Conflict journalists

Gallardo, who has covered the various conflicts of Mindanao for since the 1980s, said he was included in the ongoing red-tagging of journalists, lawyers, church workers and activists for having recently interviewed the New People’s Army about a raid they carried out in August.

“We cannot just write the government’s side, but also the rebels’,” Gallardo said.

“If they think that by doing this they would kill the idea of journalism, they thought wrong”

Gallardo said journalists are duty-bound to get the side of rebels in the many conflicts in Mindanao as they are expected to interview government armed forces as well.

“We fail to get both sides of the story, then we are no good as journalists,” Gallardo explained.

Predicate to ‘terrorism’

Former NUJP chair Inday Espina-Varona said journalists do not work in a vacuum and called the attacks part of a national government policy stemming from President Rodrigo Duterte’s vow to “crush Asia’s longest running communist insurgency.”

“Actually, he (Duterte) had given himself his own deadline of June 2019, so there is a sense of urgency now,” she said, adding that the red-tagging on Gallardo and Corrales are connected and appeared to be in line with government’s efforts to amend the Human Security Act.

Among others, this could lead to the classification of journalists’ interviews of persons or groups tagged as terrorist as “an accessory to crime and to terrorism.”

“There is a strong attempt from government officials to not allow this (interviews with rebels) anymore because it is deemed to be giving succor to their enemies,” Varona said.

“The government’s view is: if you don’t want to be red-tagged then you need to condemn certain parties, which is not what a journalist does,” she added.

Making journalists vulnerable

Varona said the sedition charges filed against opposition figures, which stemmed from a bogus ouster matrix Malacañan Palace itself released, makes journalists vulnerable as it opens the possibility of their inclusion in the case.

“There’s a lot of institutional repression, but it’s not just enough to say ‘let’s wait for a law or a campaign’ because these attacks are not a joke and should be taken very seriously. They should be laid at the feet of a government that consistently failed to recognize these threats,” she said.

Jonathan de Santos, NUJP National Capital Region chair stressed that journalists are civilians and should not be labelled as belonging to any side in the conflict for simply doing their jobs. He added that if this can happen to journalists, it could happen to anyone.

Ms. Azenath Formoso of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) read spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia, CHR spokesperson, calling attacks on journalists attacks on people’s right to the truth and to be fully informed.

The CHR It also echoed calls for security forces in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao to investigate the red-tagging and ensure the safety of targeted individuals.

The College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), meanwhile, said the attacks against Corrales and Gallardo extend to the ranks of the campus press.

“Military intelligence agents infiltrate campuses all over the country and take pictures of student publication offices,” CEGP national secretariat member Trixia Amboy said during the press conference.

In a statement, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) for its part called the red-tagging of Corrales and Gallardo “baseless and irresponsible.”
This does not only endanger the profession and render chilling effect but also put the lives of those red-tagged and their families at risk,” PPI said.

“We urge the government to hold accountable the perpetrators of such false, malicious and dangerous propaganda,” PPI added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups reject media regulation

Media groups reject a proposal to regulate mass media through a so-called Magna Carta for journalists, as announced by a Malacañan official Friday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) rejected outright the proposal of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) to regulate the profession “in the guise of a “Magna Carta.”

In reaction to a speech by PTFoMS executive director Joel Egco in Baguio City Friday, the groups said it was not the first time that such a measure is being proposed, which they have consistently opposed.

SunStar-Baguio reported Egco as saying the proposed measure would seek to professionalize journalism through qualifying and classifying exams.

“If you want to become a media personality, you will have to take an exam every six months to assess your qualification which would set either a managerial position or a corresponding salary level or grade equivalent to that of government,” Egco was quoted as saying.

Egco was addressing Northern Luzon journalists who attended a seminar on media safety protocols developed by the PTFoMS in light of the continuing threats against media workers.

He said that professionalizing the ranks of journalists by classifying them into three levels would lessen threats against them.

“With the qualifying exam, journalists can now be qualified as a level 1, 2 or 3, and depending on the vacant position to be applied, they can now for example apply for a reportorial position which is level 2 while obtaining a level 1 qualification,” Egco said.

Saying that while it does not question Egco’s intent, the NUJP, however, said the proposed “Magna Carta,” which goes so far as to set salary grades depending on “competency,” is fraught with danger.

The group added that the proposal would allow the government to determine who can or cannot be a journalist, which is totally anathema to a profession that can thrive only in independence.

The CEGP for its part said the proposed Magna Carta is a misguided attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte’s “politically erratic regime, known for its pseudo-journalists, trolls, fake news and manipulation of public opinion.”

The student journalists said that the Duterte government is in no position to dictate on the media since its own “biases and sensibilities are geared towards the creation of state-sponsored fake news that dumb down the toiling masses.”

A Philippine Press Institute officer, meanwhile, said on a social media post that their group has already rejected the so-called Magna Carta a long time ago.

“’Levelling’ has nothing to do with quality of journalism. We should [instead] care for the following: welfare and protection, ethical practice, and truth-telling,” PPI executive director Ariel Sabellino said.

The NUJP added it cannot allow government the opportunity to meddle in any way in the profession and urged journalists as well as media owners to unite in opposing what it called a clear threat to freedom of the press and of expression. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)