[Philippines] Government’s unrelenting demonization, red-tagging escalates threats to media, press freedom

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is alarmed by the endless spate of “red-tagging” and state-led attacks on media groups and journalists in the Philippines. 

The latest demonstration of state-sponsored efforts to demonize the media happened last week in Brussels. 

In a meeting with his Filipino compatriots in the Belgian capital, Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Joel Egco blamed three media organizations known for their fiery independence, namely, the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) for the negative reports about the Philippines

The event was part of the “Press Freedom Caravan” for which Egco and his team have gone on a European sojourn, covering Bosnia and Switzerland, aside from Belgium. Their mission: to tackle the state of press freedom in the country. Despite its name, the caravan is dispensing false narratives about the true state of press freedom in the Philippines

For someone who was a journalist himself before he joined government, one would expect Egco to know better. Ironically enough, he has joined the ranks of public officials, led by his principal in Malacanan, who never fail to jump at every opportunity to malign the press. 

These same civil servants have been red-tagging target media groups and journalists, including the NUJP, linking them to communist rebels. 

Demonizing members of the media through red-tagging as well as through baseless, careless, and irresponsible accusations such as those of Egco has no place in any society that claims to be a democracy. 

The Philippine Constitution enshrines the rights to freedom of religion and belief, association, and free expression. Membership in communist organizations is not a crime, for example. 

We call on all concerned public officials, notably President Rodrigo Duterte, to cease and desist from putting the press – or those that they see fit to malign every chance they get – in harm’s way and uphold their right to report freely and independently without fearing for their safety.

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