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Rights group seeks end to red-baiting of journalists

by Jericho Zafra

IN time for the 13th year of the election-related Maguindanao massacre, a human rights group has called on the government to end the attacks against the press and the laws that promote violence among media workers.

Of the 58 people killed in the November 2009 massacre, 32 were journalists.

“Karapatan demands an end to the notorious combination of media killings and repressive laws being perpetrated by the State that magnifies the prevailing culture of impunity and keeps an ever-tightening stranglehold on press freedom,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in a statement.

Palabay said some government and security officials often red-bait and label news agencies and journalists as “terrorists,” making them “potential targets” of discrimination, harassment, and murder. However, students, progressive groups, and lawmakers were also subjected to red-tagging.

Former anti-insurgency spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) were those government authorities known for tagging those that are critical to the Duterte administration as terrorists.

One of the last slain journalists was broadcaster Percy Lapid.  Police are still investigating the killing.

Laws restraining press freedom

Palabay said that the old and new laws of the country “pose various restraints on press freedom.”

Among these laws Palabay mentioned were the Revised Penal Code that criminalizes libel and oral defamation, which she labeled as “antiquated laws,” and the Anti-Terror Act of 2020.

“This renders all media practitioners vulnerable to bogus charges and wrongful arrests and creates a chilling effect on the media,” Palabay said.

The global watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists’  Global Impunity Index 2022 ranks the Philippines as the seventh most unsafe country worldwide for journalists. This ranking remains unchanged from the previous year.

Nearly 80% of the 263 cases of journalist killing remain unsolved. This means the majority of people who murder journalists continue to go unpunished, the global impunity index report said. 

Photo Credit: National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

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