Media groups sue NTF-ELCAC officials over red-tagging

Alternative media practitioners and their lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) file charges against government officials over red-tagging, Dec. 18.

“Complainants have been targeted for their critical and independent reporting on issues affecting the marginalized and oppressed sectors. They are being persecuted for publishing progressive and alternative views on matters affecting the Filipino people — progressive ideas that are anathema to the current tyrannical regime.”

By EMILY VITAL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Alternative media outfits have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss three government officials who repeatedly labeled their groups as part of the “communist propaganda machinery.”

Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly, and its network AlterMidya-People’s Media Network filed administrative and criminal charges against National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokespersons Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Lorraine Badoy, and executive director Allen Capuyan.

The media outfits maintained that Parlade, Badoy, and Capuyan violated Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The alternative media groups said that NTF-ELCAC officials posted their malicious and baseless claims on several official social media platforms.

“The Respondents, without any evidence, have labeled, branded and accused Complainants and many other progressive groups and political activists of being communists or terrorists,” they said.

“Complainants have been targeted for their critical and independent reporting on issues affecting the marginalized and oppressed sectors. They are being persecuted for publishing progressive and alternative views on matters affecting the Filipino people — progressive ideas that are anathema to the current tyrannical regime,” they told the Ombudsman.

They added, “The actions of Respondents are aimed to intentionally and severely deprive Complainants of the right to practice independent and advocacy journalism, as well as their right to free expression and speech, especially in relation to issues that the Respondents deem critical of the administration they are blindly and obsequiously serving.”

The complainants added that state security forces have been emboldened by the NTF-ELCAC’s pronouncements, citing the red-tagging against Altermidya-Panay and Northern Dispatch by police and military’s official social media pages.

Dangerous

The four media outfits also pointed out the dangers of red-tagging, citing the arrests of their colleagues Lady Ann Salem and Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

Salem, along with six labor organizers, was arrested in Mandaluyong City during simultaneous police raids last December 10. Cumpio, meanwhile, was arrested along with four other human rights on Feb. 7 in Tacloban City. Both were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Salem’s media outfits Manila Today and Tudla Productions were red tagged by Capuyan during the December 1 Senate hearing while Cumpio was declared a high-ranking New People’s Army leader by the Philippine Army.

“As red-baiting identifies the victim as a security threat or an enemy of the state, it is essentially an incitement to his or her deprivation of liberty on trumped-up criminal cases, if not physical harm or even death,” the complainants said.

They added that “undue injury was also caused to the public.”

“Red-tagging Complainants brought a chilling effect on the press, as well as on discourse and debate, stifling the free expression of dissent,” they said.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) supported the filing of charges.

“If these government officials truly believe their claims against our colleagues, or anyone else for that matter, their duty requires them to file the proper charges and prove these in a court of law. That they have not and, more aptly, CANNOT do so proves that they are engaged in a witch-hunt, abusing their positions and authority to smear reputations and place lives in harm’s way,” the NUJP said.

The media outfits were assisted by their counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), which also filed charges against the NTF-ELCAC over red-tagging.

Earlier, rights group Karapatan, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Ibon Foundation also sued NTF-ELCAC officials for labeling them as communist fronts. ()

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