Philippines - No tag: press freedom for pluralism

  • 04 Jul 2024

A report by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines funded by UNESCO explores survey and focus group findings on journalists’ experiences of red-tagging.

The NUJP defines red-tagging in the report as “tagging or labelling dissenters as being armed communist rebels in order to silence them, threaten them, or undermine their work.” The practice has led to attacks and threats against journalists with Frenchie Mae Cumpio in prison for four years with her trial stalled. 

Alongside red-tagging, journalists working in the Philippines face other threats to their safety as demonstrated by the killing of Percy Mabasa in 2022. A vocal critic of the practice, he was assassinated during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  and was the second journalist killed under his leadership.

In February 2024, Irene Khan, special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion visited the Philippines and published recommendations soon after, including a call to government to pass an executive order banning or discouraging red-tagging, and to abolish the red-tagging National taskforce. No action has been taken thus far and there is no law in the country defining or penalising the act.

Research anyalsis reveals:

  • At least 60 per cent of red-tagging incidents in the past eight years were state-sponsored.
  • Red-tagging occurred using posters and on social media platforms where networks of pro-Duterte or pro Marcos accounts amplified false statements.
  • Red tagging remains under-reported, with journalists who do share experiences commenting on the huge burdens and detrimental impact on their mental heath.
  • Of 159 incidents of red-tagging, news organisations took concrete action responding to the activity in only six cases.
  • In some cases, sources became hesitant and elusive following incidents of red-tagging of journalists.

Report recommendations:

1. Mainstream media organisations should continue, and further strengthen, their solidarity efforts with red-tagged journalists whether or not they belong to mainstream media, or alternative media.

2. Media organisations and civil society should create a mechanism by which red-tagged journalists can have easy access to legal support.

3. News organisations should adopt a more robust internal protocol to respond to a red-tagging attack on any of its staff, including but not limited to mental health response.

4. The government should take these complaints seriously, investigate them, and hold accountable the perpetrators.

5. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr should communicate a clear policy to stop red-tagging.

Download the report. No tag: Press Freedom For Pluralism.


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