Rights group calls on UN expert to look into disinformation, red-tagging

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said that the red-tagging has become more brazen and relentless in spreading lies and terror-tagging more individuals from the media, activists and critics.


MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan is urging the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression to look into what they describe as a dangerous pattern of disinformation and red-tagging.

UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan will reportedly conduct her official visit into the country in 2023.

In a statement, the rights group said that red-tagging and disinformation “affects the exercise of press freedom and freedom of expression.”

In particular, the group cited the series of red-tagging by Jeffrey Celiz and former anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy of journalists and other personalities in their regularly aired program in SMNI News Channel, “Laban Kasama ang Bayan.”

SMNI is owned by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who is on the FBI’s most wanted list “for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of children; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling.”

Karapatan secretary seneral Cristina Palabay said that the red-tagging has become bold and relentless in spreading lies and terror-tagging more individuals from the media, activists and critics.

“Someone has to pull the plug on this red-tagging spree, as the lives and safety of everyone at the receiving end of this dangerous practice are on the line,” she added.

Palabay also calls on companies of social media platforms such as Meta, Youtube, Tiktok, and Twitter to address the deluge of online disinformation and threats against journalists and activists.

Badoy, through the program has red-tagged journalists Atom Araullo, Inday Espina-Varona, and Vergel Santos, naming them as “operatives” of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Secretary General and Bulatlat Managing Editor Ronalyn Olea was also called an “operatibong internet operator” of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Read: Journalists union denounces red-tagging of officer

Other journalists such as Ed Lingao, Lourd de Veyra and Rose Novenario also received threats on social media following the killing of Percy Lapid.

Uncoordinated visits to journalists’ homes were also reportedly being conducted by plainclothes officers of the Philippine National Police.

“We ask these mad red-taggers, are you the prep team for attacks against more journalists on the government terror list? These red-taggers have previously used the same media platform in attacking individuals and institutions which provide critical information to the public,” said Palabay.

‘Organizations receiving threats’

Meanwhile, Karapatan condemned the threats and harassment against members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros.

The group reported that both NFSW spokesperson Mario Tapi-on and member Danilo Tabura received a number of text messages on Oct. 24, saying: “wait kamo da sa inyo nga mga grupo sa npa terrorist da lang kita sa inyo office katig a gd sa inyo” (just wait with your npa terrorist group in your office, you seem to have no fear). Another message read, “piho na gid ang katikalon ninnyo sadya ini” (your being liars are getting worse, this is fun).

This happened after the two, through a press conference, reiterated their call for justice for victims in the Negros raids of 2019 where 57 people were arrested, including Tabura.

Read: How red-tagging justifies human rights abuses

A certain Facebook page Kalumuran Mindanao also posted online posters which says, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” containing photographs of known women’s rights defenders, trade union activists, and other progressives in Southern Mindanao, including Gabriela-Southern Mindanao leaders Dr. Jean Lindo and Cora Espinoza.

Palabay pointed out that continuous red-tagging by government trolls on the internet, Badoy, Celiz, the military and police, and Cabinet officials like Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla should not be taken lightly.

“This online information ecosystem works as part of the whole operation plan of the Marcos Jr. government’s counter-insurgency to suppress political dissent. As the president focuses on decorating its administration with lights and sounds, fun vlogs and mediocre speeches, his administration is apparently working double-time to normalize red-tagging and labelling persons as terrorists and communists, as prelude to further threats to their life and safety,” Palabay said.

Palabay reiterated that the continuation and intensification of attacks against the people should be strongly condemned by freedom of expression advocates. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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