Increased repression against press freedom and cyberattacks during election campaign

Since the official start of the presidential election campaign on February 8, 2022, attacks against journalists and news sites have increased, making neutral reporting more difficult. Restrictions on news coverage affect public discourse to inform voters about the presidential candidates, criticizes Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). For example, without reasoning, the Philippine police denied two reporters the access to campaign events of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Ilocos Sur.

In addition, cyberattacks against news sites have been on the rise for several months. Among others, the websites of Rappler, CNN Philippines, ABS-CBN, as well those of the human rights groups Bulatlat, Karapatan and Altermidya were affected. Through so-called DDoS attacks (Distrubuted Denial of Service), either websites can no longer be accessed or new content be published. According to Len Olea, executive director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), this is currently quite problematic because measures to counter such attacks are very expensive in the Philippines. The Swedish digital forensics organization Quirum Media Foundation, however, was able to trace back some attacks to the Philippine hacker group “Pinoy Vendetta” and identified one of its members. In the context of these cyberattacks, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), notorious for red-tagging, praised the hacker group and called its members “computer geniuses”. Meanwhile, Facebook blocked a “coordinated violative network” of 400 accounts which made a boast of the cyberattacks.

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