By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT QUITASOL
BAGUIO CTIY—Activists and progressive organizations urged media practitioners to join them in the campaign to put an end to vilification due to political beliefs through fair and responsible reporting.
In a roundtable discussion on vilification or red-labeling with media practitioners initiated by Dinteg (Cordillera Indigenous Peoples’ Legal Center) and Hustisya-Northern Luzon (an organization of families of victims of human rights violations), in partnership with the European Union, activists called on media practitioners to be careful in using terms especially those crafted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to describe activists and legitimate organizations and to present the military side of the story.
The groups pointed out that the media may be unwittingly contributing to the vilification of activists and progressive organizations in using AFP terminologies.
Satur Ocampo, president of Makabayan and a seasoned journalist, said that the use of terms like “communist-terrorists” helps spread the military’s propaganda of equating legitimate organizations to terrorist groups.
He added that by parroting the baseless military description of activist groups that labels them as “fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-New People’s Army (NPA),” the media is helping to wrongly condition public perception about these organizations.
Ocampo reiterated the need to talk to editors and managers to correct these terminologies.
Editha Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos, a victim of enforced disappearance, appealed to the media to always practice objective reporting. “While it is true that you have to put out the position of government, you should also get the other side,” she emphasized.
Burgos also recognized that the media has been playing a big role in the continuing campaign for the surfacing of her son. She urged the media to give similar assistance to other human rights victims, to give them space in their papers and programs.
Dinteg Executive Director Rhoda Dalang said that even media practitioners have become victims of vilification. She said that journalists reporting on sensitive issues are also being vilified and even killed.
Dalang reiterated that vilification is actually part of the counter-insurgency program of the government patterned after the United States’ “war on terror.” She explained that it is part of an attempt to redefine international human rights standards to justify acts of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
She added that this practice showed in the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya I and II of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration where systematic vilification of activists preceded the abductions, killings and illegal arrests.
She further said that the Aquino government’s counter insurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan says nothing about putting an end to vilification.
It can be recalled that United Nations Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Professor Philip Alston in March 2007 identified two causes of extrajudicial killings in the country: one is vilification and the other is the extent of counter insurgency operations.