On World Press Freedom Day: “Reclaim our right to express and our free spaces”—CPDG

May 4, 2022

Photo Credits: AP/Bullit Marquez

May 4, 2022

National civil society body Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) expressed solidarity with journalists and writers across the country on the global celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

For this year, UNESCO adopted ‘journalism under digital siege’ as its theme in response to the increasing attacks on press freedom in cyberspace.

Digital attacks in the form of distributed denial of service or DDoS plagued organizations critical to the Duterte administration. DDoS is a malicious effort to knock a website down by flooding it with a massive volume of simulated traffic. It is also a type of system interference, which has been banned since the passage of the E-Commerce Act in 2000.

The webpages of alternative news site Bulatlat, human rights watchdog Karapatan, fact-checking news site Vera Files, Senator Leila de Lima, and many others were among the victims of these attacks.

Altermidya, Bulatlat, and Karapatan tracked DDoS attacks on the Philippine military and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), confirmed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Massive newsgroup ABS-CBN News, Vera Files, and Rappler recorded DDoS in December 2021, with similar attack signatures. 

Pinoy Vendetta, a hacking gang notorious for launching DDoS attacks on critical media and commended by the NTF-ELCAC for assaults on the Communist Party of the Philippines’ website, was uncovered in March 2022.

The Philippine press is often regarded as one of the most unfettered in Asia, yet remains one of the most perilous locations in the world to work as a journalist. Human rights activists and press freedom advocates continue to condemn the prevalent culture of impunity — now even in cyberspace.

“Duterte, like the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, repressed the media and ordered the closure of the broadcast network ABS–CBN. Media outfits, news organizations, and journalists have been red-tagged or accused of being communist sympathizers, and journalists, including Lady Salem and Maria Ressa, have been arrested and incarcerated, yet freed afterwards. This only means that speaking the truth should not be criminalized and journalists should not be harassed,” Liza Maza, CPDG spokesperson, said.

Along with state-harassments, disinformation and misinformation also serve as an attack to the credibility of media institutions. 

Vast amounts of propaganda and tailored disinformation – sheer demagoguery – produced and amplified by a humongous network of websites, such as Facebook pages and groups, YouTube channels, now TikTok, and social media influencers appear to be part of a systematic campaign to burnish Marcos’ image and pave the way for their continued rise in Philippine politics. 

The networked propaganda involved negligence to kleptocracy and human rights violations throughout the Martial Law period – embellishing the Marcos patriarch’s accomplishments while vilifying opponents, competitors, and the mainstream media and involving color politics by dismissing the Martial Law atrocities as mere “yellow” propaganda.

“The election, happening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, is unprecedented. Now more than ever, we should assert accessible social services, pro-people economy, and accentuate the crucial role of the media in countering false narratives and securing clean and honest elections,” Maza pointed out, citing that the situation of press freedom ought to be raised while decrying the “restoration and expansion of the authority of the repressors, Duterte-Marcos”. “As we transition into a new administration, the CPDG hopes that the fight to safeguard democracy and fundamental freedoms, and uphold press freedom will be addressed. As we vote, we remember the need to reclaim our right to express and our free spaces” Maza ended. #