Ronalyn Olea, the Secretary General of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) was recently a victim of red tagging by the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI). Olea, the managing editor of Bulatlat and advocate for press freedom was labelled an “operatibong internet operator” for the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front by SNMI anchors.
Local and international media rights organisations, including the NUJP, have denounced the act. Olea’s outlet, Bulatlat, condemned the action, identifying an increasing number of red-tagging incidents and other attacks against journalists in recent months.
The claim was made by Lorraine Badoy, a former spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), an organisation created in 2018 by former president Rodrigo Duterte. Badoy has stirred controversy and faced harsh criticism for her dangerous and sensational claims against media rights, civil society and legal organisations.
SNMI is the Davao City-based broadcasting arm of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, a controversial Philippine televangelist. Like Badoy, SNMI have also recently invoked outrage from media and human rights groups for accusing both organisations and individuals of having connections to rebel groups, including the NUJP, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines and the Movement Against Disinformation.
Red tagging is the practice of labelling activists, journalists and other political figures as terrorists, communists or other enemies of the state, regardless of their beliefs. The NUJP has condemned the use of red-tagging as a means to harass, discredit and justify violence against journalists, media practitioners and activists since its founding in 1986.
The NUJP said: “The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounces in the strongest possible terms the red-tagging of our secretary general and Bulatlat editor Ronalyn Olea. […] In the face of the baseless accusations and desperate vilification, we stand with Ms Olea and all others red-tagged by the government and by its mouthpieces.”
The IFJ said: “As incidents of violence and harassment against media practitioners continue to grow, the actions of the Sonshine Media Network International news outlet pose a real risk to journalists and media workers. The IFJ condemns the practice of red-tagging and the ongoing harassment and violence against journalists in the Philippines and calls for greater measures to ensure the rights of journalists are respected.”