The Manila Times published an editorial cartoon on October 25 depicting a man wearing a shirt and hat branded with identifiable communist symbols, painting masks with the labels ‘lawmakers’, ‘feminists’, ‘activists’, ‘educators’, ‘clergy’, ‘artists’, and ‘journalists’.
Red tagging, or the labelling of individuals, institutions and professions as affiliated with communism, is a common method to undermine media organisations and journalists in the Philippines. In several incidents, the accusations were derived from the official social media accounts or statements of government authorities. In August, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) attacked journalist Atom Araullo following his documentary on an indigenous Lumad school in Metro Manila. The official Facebook pages of the Duterte government also used the platform to target local media a week after World Press Freedom Day this year.
The NUJP stated that while it does not begrudge the inherent bias of The Manila Times, media outlets should tackle issues in a more mature and balanced way. The cartoonish vilification of a large cross-section of Philippine society, without context, sets a dangerous precedent.
“Worst of all, by totally ignoring the most basic tenets of journalism, it has placed hundreds, nay, thousands, of Filipino lives in the crosshairs of government and its state forces. This, most of all, is its greatest disservice to the profession and to the Filipino people and nation,” the NUJP added.
The IFJ said: “The ongoing accusations and vilification against journalists puts media workers in the Philippines at risk. The IFJ demands that this unrelenting harassment and intimidation of media workers ceases to ensure journalists can do their work safely and securely.”