#WorldPressFreedomDay | Journalists, rights defenders slam Duterte, military for attacks

MANILA — On World Press Freedom Day, journalists and human rights defenders staged a protest in front of Camp Aquinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), denouncing the state-perpetrated attacks against the Philippine press.

Protesters show their version of matrix, with President Duterte as the nexus of all plots. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

In a statement, the Altermidya People’s Media Network, a network of alternative media outfits, maintained that the Rodrigo Duterte regime is the biggest threat to the people’s right to press freedom, freedom of expression and other human rights. “It uses the entire coercive power of the State to attack and quell the independent press and these attacks are instigated and led by the madman in Malacañang Palace himself,” the group said.

The group tagged the AFP as one of Duterte’s leading peddlers of lies and fake news. “It red-tags journalists and activists, many of whom are later unjustly arrested or, worse, summarily killed,” the group said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) as well as journalists based in Panay, Cagayan de Oro City, and Cordillera have been labeled as “communist fronts” by military agents. Sherwin de Vera, a columnist of Northern Dispatch, was charged and detained on trumped-up charges after the military accused him of being a communist. He was released on bail.

Journalists covering the protest also condemn the attacks on press freedom. (Photo by Zeng Umil / Bulatlat)

Since December last year, sustained distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been unleashed against Bulatlat, Kodao, Pinoy Weekly, Altermidya, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, as well as websites of activist organizations Anakpawis Party, Arkibong Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Human Rights Online, Ibon Foundation, Karapatan, and the National Democratic Front. Sweden-based digital rights group Quirium has identified two information technology companies, IP Converge and Suniway, as the source of the ongoing cyberattacks aimed at taking down our websites. Alternative media outfits have filed a civil case against the said companies. “We believe that these entities are acting in behalf of masterminds (the real cyber-assassins) who are probably state forces,” the Altermidya said.

Rhea Padilla, national coordinator of Altermidya People’s Media Network, denounces the attacks on the Philippine media, ranging from cyber attacks, red baiting, vilification to surveillance, physical attacks, killings. (photo by Zeng Umil/ Bulatlat)

“We accuse Duterte for instigating these attacks against press freedom and the people’s right to know. Even before he assumed power, he has already justified the killing of journalists. After ranting madly in his speeches, worsening attacks, harassments and vilification are then launched against the independent press. These attacks go hand-in-hand against the killings of activists, farmers, indigenous peoples, lawyers, church people and many others on top of the unjust arrests and filing of trumped up charges in a grand scheme called the Whole of Nation approach to quell legitimate dissent,” the group said.

Earlier, Altermidya journalists have been arrested for covering the NutriAsia labor strike in Bulacan.

Human rights defenders and members of people’s organizations join the protest marking the World Press Freedom Day, asserting their right to free expression. (photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)

Other independent media outfits and journalists suffer all forms of attacks from this regime. Recently, the Office of the President admitted that the so-called matrix of destabilizers, including Vera Files, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler, and Bulatlat columnist Danilo Arao as well as the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers came from President Duterte himself. Earlier, ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer have been threatened by Duterte, who said that his attacks will only stop if these outfits would agree to be his regime’s federalism drive mouthpieces.

Meanwhile, human rights alliance Karapatan said the dangerous tagging of human rights defenders and journalists as terrorists is “part of a convoluted and orchestrated effort to discredit groups and individuals and evade any form of investigation and accountability processes.”

“Duterte, his minions at PCOO [Presidential Communications and Operations Office] and officials of the PNP [Philippine National Police] and AFP are further engendering a climate of impunity in the Philippines, perpetrating unabated human rights violations amid a growing opposition to the government’s crimes and anti-people policies,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.

Altermidya warned that Duterte and his agents would be made to pay for their crimes against the people.

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