Press Freedom Day: Social media companies urged to investigate attacks on Filipino journalists

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign correspondents working in the Philippines on Tuesday urged social media platforms to investigate online attacks their colleagues have suffered during the campaign season.

In a statement marking Press Freedom Day on Tuesday, May 3, the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines identified the harassment and threats on social media as coming from supporters of the presidential candidate and government favorite. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. investigation

“We call on the companies behind social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook (Meta), Instagram, Google and YouTube to investigate these attacks as possible coordinated behavior and how the provocative content of pro-Marcos figures endangers, defames and incites hatred and possible attacks on independent journalists,” OFCAP said.

She said she was gravely concerned about the attacks, citing three instances of harassment. These include:

  • The Washington Post’s correspondent in Manila, Regine Cabato, was called a “whore”. She also faced attacks online for a well-verified story she wrote about historical revisionism;
  • BBC correspondent Howard Johnson has suffered a barrage of online abuse – with one supporter threatening that someone will ‘cut their necks for tarnishing the reputation of Filipinos’ – after asking in a film how Marcos Jr. can be a good president if he doesn’t allow it. “serious talks”.
  • When Senate bettor Larry Gadon, an ally of Marcos Jr., published a lewd, swearing attack on South China Morning Post reporter Raissa Robles after he tweeted about the past tax conviction of the presidential bet.

It’s also been difficult for reporters to reach Marcos Jr. and his campaign team for answers to long-standing questions and controversies, FOCAP said.

“He did not submit to a free, open and uncensored press conference throughout the campaign like most other candidates and stayed away from independent but potentially critical debates and interviews, including those organized by the Electoral Commission,” he said. .

Additionally, its media relations team has consistently accredited news staff from more than a dozen FOCAP news agencies and does not regularly respond to inquiries, requests for comment, and comments. document use permissions, depending on the group.

He added that there have been incidents where journalists have been brutalized as they tried to approach him during his election campaign.

“All of these restrictive actions undermine a critical and free press in an Asian bulwark of democracy and have raised fears about how independent media would be treated under another possible Marcos presidency,” FOCAP said.

While expressing grievances over the Marcos campaign’s treatment of journalists, FOCAP said it was maintaining a nonpartisan stance in the May 9 election.

Human rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, sees a possible Marcos-Duterte administration as an additional threat to the practice of independent journalism in the country.

“The way Marcos Jr. is banking on an active campaign of grand historical lies and historical revisionism, fake news and distorted facts, shutting down criticism and opposition, is just the tip of the iceberg. of what a Marcos-Duterte presidency can do, even without a declaration of military rule — to perpetuate power,” the group said in a statement Tuesday.

The duo, carrying a slogan “Unity”, led a campaign proposing a broad continuation of the policies of the Duterte administration. It was in recent years that ABS-CBN, the largest broadcaster, was shut down, prompting an international media watchdog to classify Duterte, father of vice-presidential candidate Sara, among “predators of the freedom of the press” of the world.

Beyond the May vote

Even as groups have sounded the alarm, the outcome of May’s elections, for the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, will not decide the determination of independent journalists.

“The NUJP marks World Press Freedom Day with the determination that the community of independent journalists will not rise or fall on the outcome of the May elections, that the work we do will continue, regardless of power,” he said in a statement.

He pointed out that journalists in recent years have learned to support and defend each other and are closer to the spirit of collaboration and solidarity.

“While this has been true for the past six years, we recognize that the best way to move forward in difficult times is to be together and that our best source of support is each other and the people we depend on” , did he declare.

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