As the coverage of the upcoming elections intensified, so did online attacks on journalists and the press. An upsurge in offensive posts on social media is closely linked to election events according to research by the news site Rappler – for example, during the period of candidate registration. Accounts and pages of Duterte and Marcos supporters have been the most heavily involved. In addition, there have been increased cyberattacks, for example against Rappler, ABS-CBN, and Vera Files.
Adrian Puse, a journalist at Altermedia received death threats via Facebook message in December. The messages from the now-removed Facebook profile “Bob Dinelli” included private, sensitive data about Puse’s sister and girlfriend. The latter was also contacted directly and put under pressure.
There were also face-to-face attacks and intimidation attempts. On January 28, a group of armed men attacked and harassed journalists Manuel Garcellano and Reymark Umpacan of UMANI Productions. Garcellano and Umpacan were researching and conducting interviews with area residents about the perhaps illegitimate demolition of houses. The attackers turned out to be security guards from Araneta Properties Inc., a company involved in the land dispute, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
The Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club Inc. (BCBC) and the National Union of Journalists Baguio-Benguet (NUJP-BB) issued a joint statement condemning the renewed red-tagging attempts of the Philippine National Police. BCBC Chairman Aldwin Quitasol received an invitation to a dialogue with the military and police. Such meetings are often being used to obtain information about the New People’s Army (NPA) and to link journalists to terrorist groups.
In order to protect journalists before, during and after the upcoming elections, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has decided to deploy “media security vanguards”. The PTFoMS also wants to discuss with the Commission on Elections whether the ban on firearms for media employees or individual journalists can be suspended during the election period.
Photo © Raffy Lerma