Philippines: Black propaganda against ABS-CBN and Maria Ressa

The government's anti-communist task force posted offensive black propaganda on social media against ABS-CBN and Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemn the offensive propaganda and blatant disregard for the media.

An employee of ABS-CBN works in the newsroom at the station headquarters in Manila on May 6, 2020. Credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) shared a series of black propaganda posts, intending to discredit organisations by appearing to make claims on their behalf. One post from the task force falsely stated the ABS-CBN's franchise renewal request ‘was disapproved’ after legal issues were raised against the network, forcing its closure on May 5. Another infographic suggested the network was illegally collecting money from viewers through a free-to-air channel. 

The task force also targeted Maria Ressa, whose publications are notably critical of president Rodrigo Duterte. NTF-ELCAC accused Ressa of spreading ‘fake news’ when she mistakenly said ABS-CBN employed 11 million workers, instead of 11,000. Ressa, who is also a former head of ABS-CBN News, has apologised. 

The Presidential Communications Group allegedly aided NTF-ELCAC by sharing the offensive posts on their official Facebook page. The group later took the posts down after backlash.

NUJP, in a joint statement signed by 196 individuals and 49 organisations, made up of journalists, media groups and academics called the Facebook posts a brazenly criminal abuse of authority on the part of the NTF-ELCAC. 

We demand that government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), immediately mount an investigation into who in the NTF-ELCAC were responsible for ordering and creating the slanderous posts and why,” the joint statement added.

IFJ said: Targeting journalists through government-run black propaganda has no other purpose other than undermining trust in the media. The IFJ condemn the offensive posts and call for an immediate investigation into the incident.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram