Press freedom concerned about treatment of Filipino media in 2022 election

The campaign period, which began on February 8, saw the banning of journalists from campaign events, the refusal of candidates to attend debates organized by the media, a series of distributed denial of service attacks ( DDoS) on news websites and online hostility against news. organizations and journalists.

By CHERRY SALAZAR

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Media Freedom and Accountability (CMFR) have expressed concern over attacks and hostility against the media in the run-up to the May 9 elections.

The campaign period, which began on February 8, saw election-related incidents such as the banning of journalists from campaign events, the refusal of candidates to attend debates organized by the media, a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on news websites. , and online hostility against news agencies and journalists over their coverage of candidates.

NUJP President Jonathan de Santos said access to campaigns was a unique challenge during the 2022 campaign, not because of pandemic restrictions, but because of some candidates’ efforts to manage news media .

“May constraints on coverage. Pili lang. [Example], accredited naman ako pero galing ako sa newsroom na ayaw mo, hindi mo ako hahayaang mag-cover…. Ou meron ngang embush interview pero shortlisted naman ‘yung embush interview tapos isang tanong lang, “ de Santos told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

(There are coverage constraints. They are demanding. For example, I’m accredited with them but I’m from a newsroom they don’t like, so they won’t let me cover. Or it there is an ambush interview but it’s pre-selected and only one question is allowed.)

These restrictions have affected public discourse important to inform voters about the candidates, said the executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Accountability (CMFR), Melinda Quintos de Jesus.

Ban on journalists at campaign events

Rappler contributor Sherwin De Vera recalled arriving at least five hours before the Uniteam slate caravan at Ilocos Sur on February 17. and the building’s photojournalist Edwin Mangoba. They were also not allowed to cover the large gathering that evening.

The two received no explanation. De Vera reported earlier the same day that several barangay health workers wearing Ministry of Health marked shirts attended the event, prompting the Ministry of Health to remind its staff against attending political activities.

“If you do not restrict access to the media to cover this event, ibig sabihin, protect the most important information about these events,” he added.

(If media access to cover these events is restricted, this means that the public is also denied access to information about these candidates.)

Marcos had also been selective in his participation in presidential debates and forums. In January, Marcos accused veteran journalist Jessica Soho of being “biased” in justifying her refusal to attend GMA News presidential interviews.

Verbal attacks online

The PCIJ monitored at least nine incidents of DDoS attacks against news websites, including those of GMA News and CNN Philippines during the broadcast of their presidential interviews.

A DDoS attack is an attempt to overwhelm a web server’s bandwidth or resources by flooding it with multiple traffic requests, causing the website to become slow or unavailable. It is a form of unauthorized access to and interference with a computer system or server, which is illegal in the Philippines under Republic Act No. 8792 or the Electronic Commerce Act.

These cyberattacks also affect the dissemination of information to the public, De Santos said. “Aanhin mo ang storya kung di naman mababasa?” (What good is your story if no one can read it?)

Mitigation measures to counter these online attacks can be costly, straining newsrooms’ already limited resources.

Online hostility against news agencies and journalists is also commonplace.

Before the election campaign, the candidates themselves carried out verbal attacks against journalists. Besides Marcos calling Jessica Soho “biased,” her senatorial candidate Larry Gadon attacked foreign correspondent Raissa Robles after she posted comments about Marcos’ tax conviction.

Killings before the campaign period

CMFR’s director general described the attacks on the media as attacks on the “heart of society”.

“The heart allows blood to flow through the body… The machinery of journalism goes to platforms, such as news sites, television and radio programs. All of these communication platforms are what makes the flow of support,” De Jesus said.

“If you attack them, you make society sick. You will create a society that is either unable to do anything for itself or is heavily dependent solely on the forces of power,” she added. “This power is usually associated with violence and coercion.”

The Philippines is the seventh most dangerous country in the world for journalists, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which publishes an Impunity Index that ranks countries around the world by the number of journalists killed and the prevalence of perpetrators at liberty.

Two radio commentators were killed in Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat between the filing of nominations in October 2021 and the start of the campaign period in February 2022. Inquests have been opened to determine whether the death of the Orlando radio commentator and reporter Dinoy and radio commentator Jaynard Angeles were linked to their work in the media.

Outside of the election-related incidents, Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club Inc. President Aldwin Quitasol heard a gunshot and saw two men speeding on a motorcycle as he rode home along a weakly illuminated in the city on March 1.

Quitasol strongly criticized the government’s counter-insurgency strategy. In January, the police and military invited Quitasol and other city activists to participate in a “dialogue” as part of the community support program’s Operation White Zone.

Red-marking journalists, as well as other members of civil society, is a serious problem, De Jesus said.

The National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) had labeled several journalists and media outlets as Communist allies, without even citing intelligence sources, leading to a barrage of online harassment and threats against media workers.

“This administration hasn’t developed a trust in the media and in working with each other,” De Jesus said. “It’s also because the NTF-Elcac, designated as an agency to eliminate communism, uses red-marking mechanisms and labels journalists as enemies of the state.”

In 2016, a Presidential Task Force on Media Safety (PTFoM) was established under Administrative Order No. 1. But CMFR’s De Jesus said the agency, which was attached to the president’s office and tasked with investigating and acting on cases of media violence, did not even coordinate with journalists’ groups.

“From the start, there was no information shared… They work alone, but the idea of ​​state protection should be tied to the efforts of those who work in journalism themselves,” said De Jesus.

PTFoMS Executive Director, Joel Egco, a former journalist, is also the spokesperson for NTF-Elcac’s media engagements.

PCIJ has contacted the working group but has received no response to date.

De Santos said it was important for journalists to diligently report attacks, show solidarity with one another and demand that the government take action to prevent these attacks.

“If you look closely, the responsibility to protect the media is not on us… Shouldn’t it be on the government to ensure that we have an environment conducive to freedom of the press and the free flow of information ? So it’s really up to them,” De Santos said.


Timeline: Attacks and hostility against the media

October 30, 2021: Radio commentator and Philippines News journalist Orlando Dinoy was killed in his apartment. He was being pushed to run for Vice Mayor of Bansalan, Davao del Sur. Dinoy had six gunshot wounds, according to reports.

November 17-18, 2021: Pinoy Media Center, which publishes Pinoy Weekly, fell victim to DDoS attacks. The cyberattacks came after the publication of an op-ed on a possible Duterte-Marcos alliance and an analysis of the 2022 election agenda.

December 11, 2021: The ABS-CBN news site was targeted by a DDoS attack and was inaccessible for six hours.

December 15, 2021: Rappler has been the victim of a DDoS attack.

December 16, 2021: The Vera Files website has been hit by a DDoS attack.

December 19, 2021: AlterMidya staff Arian Puse received threats via Messenger chat. The read message, “uunti-untiin kita”, “alam ko (ang) bahay mo at pinagtatrabahuan mo” and “huling Pasko (mo) na ito”.

December 23, 2021: Within a week, Rappler was subjected to another DDoS attack. The ABS-CBN news website also went down, although the network did not confirm the reason for the outage.

January 12, 2022: Radyo ni Juan Tacurong radio commentator Jaynard Angeles was shot in the head by two unidentified male assailants.

January 22 and 27, 2022: Rappler reported a DDoS attack on its website.

January 29, 2022: GMA News reported a DDoS attack. This happened a week after the network aired “The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews”.

January 30, 2022: CNN Philippines announced that its website was down due to a DDoS attack.

February 17, 2022: ABS-CBN channel Dynah Diestro was kicked out of its coverage during the visit of four senatorial candidates to the governor’s office in Zamboanga del Norte.

February 17, 2022: Sherwin de Vera and Edwin Mangoba, who both reported for Rappler, were barred from covering the public trailer for presidential candidate and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

February 27, 2022: CNN Philippines reported DDoS attacks on its website during the network’s live presidential debate.

March 1, 2022: An assassination attempt was made against Daily Tribune correspondent Aldwin Quitasol, president of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club. (reposted by davaotoday.com)

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