Media security chief gets flak for ‘red-tagging’ | Inquirer News

Media security chief gets flak for ‘red-tagging’

/ 06:05 AM January 22, 2024

JULY 8, 2022Messages of support from members of NUJP, progressive groups and online news website Altermidya are shown during a simple protest action held in front of the old Hall of Justice building in Quezon City after Bulatlat filed a civil case for the nullification of the National Telecommunications Commission memorandum which ordered Internet Service Providers to block access to a list of websites that included alternative news platforms like theirs. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON


MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a press freedom watchdog, has called out the head of the government’s media security body for saying a detained community journalist was active in the armed communist rebellion — a practice known as red-tagging.

The NUJP criticized Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) executive director Paul Gutierrez for labeling Tacloban-based Frenchie Mae Cumpio of the alternative media outfit Eastern Vista as part of the communist armed struggle.


“It also shows the absurdity of having a body created for media security in a government task force that actively puts journalists’ security at risk by accusing them of being enemies of the state,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.


In an interview with the Inquirer on Sunday, NUJP chair Jonathan de Santos said the official’s actions violated a number of constitutional principles, such as presumption of innocence, freedom of association and expression, and press freedom.

He said officials must acknowledge that critical reporting did not mean there was any conspiracy or plot against the government.

“Red-tagging affects subjects in different ways, depending on the level of their safety, but puts them at risk regardless of who they are and where they are in the Philippines,” De Santos said.

Nonbailable raps

In an opinion column for Journal News Online on Jan. 4, Gutierrez said in Filipino that United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan was keen to learn of the plight of Cumpio, “who is currently detained at the Palo Provincial Jail for her active role in the local terrorist groups of the communists.”

The journalist has been behind bars since 2020 on nonbailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Cumpio, along with four others, was arrested on Feb. 7, 2020, at the Eastern Vista staff house in Tacloban City in a series of raids on what the military claimed were “identified Communist Terrorist Group safe houses.”


She has denied the charges.

NUJP said Gutierrez’s comment proved how red-tagging had become “institutionalized” in the Philippines and had become an “undeclared policy.”

The media group joined its colleagues in Altermidya, an online news platform for marginalized communities, in “taking exception to Gutierrez’s accusation and calling attention to this incident.”

The Inquirer sought Gutierrez’s comment but there was no immediate response.

Tool to silence critics

Media groups believe red-tagging is being used by state forces as a tool to quash dissent and silence critics, including journalists.

De Santos urged the media community to play an active role in supporting colleagues who are being red-tagged by calling attention to them on social media or reaching out to targeted individuals.

He proposed that newsrooms provide mental health support, enhance security protocols for personnel if necessary, and publicly express support for affected staff.

Khan is expected to visit the country from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 on the government’s invitation.

On Saturday, the PTFoMS said it arranged for Khan to meet with state institutions and government bodies of her choosing.

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“The visit is a welcome opportunity to showcase the nation’s commitment to openness, transparency, and its vibrant media community highlighted by everyone’s right to freely express their opinion,” Gutierrez said.

TAGS: Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Paul Gutierrez, Presidential Task Force on Media Security, red-tagging

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