“No Tag”: NUJP launches study on red-tagging against journalists

Photo from NJUP website.

THE NATIONAL Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), officially launched its study on red-tagging against journalists on May 18, 2024, in Baguio City. Titled “No Tag: Press Freedom for Pluralism,” researchers discussed the rise of red-tagging during the administration of Rodrigo Duterte (2016-2022) and the current term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (2022-present).

The record lists 159 incidents of red-tagging against journalists from the alternative (90) and the mainstream (69) media. The presentation discussed the perpetrators, the methods used, and the effects of these attacks on journalists, and their personal and professional lives. The month-long study also documented the actions taken by journalists and newsrooms to counter these attacks. Ten case studies detailed the personal stories of journalists like Atom Araullo and Cong Corrales, among others.

Lian Buan, NUJP Director; Janvic Mateo, NUJP-Philippine Star and professor at UP-Diliman Department of Journalism; and Leah Perez, NUJP-NCR and writer for the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility wrote up the findings and recommendations of the 61-page study. The study was edited by Ronalyn Olea, NUJP secretary-general and editor-in-chief of Bulatlat, and Jonathan de Santos, NUJP chair and ABS-CBN News Online deputy editor.

Researchers conducted focus group discussions with red-tagged journalists, and interviews with a human rights lawyer, a psychologist, and a professor.

The study pointed out the lack of a law with which to penalize red-tagging; and that it was defined as a threat by the Supreme Court in a decision released only on May 8, 2024.

The study showed 60% of the 159 incidents as state-sponsored. The rest of the red-tagging incidents were perpetrated by influencers or unknown individuals or groups. Incidents by unknown perpetrators sometimes used physical posters; utilizing mostly social media platforms that were amplified by the network of pro-Duterte or pro-Marcos accounts. Sending a letter or dropping in for a visit was employed in 19.8% of the cases. 

The study discussed the effects on the mental health and personal lives of the journalists. The study showed that red-tagging had not caused any journalist to leave the work.  For their safety, they had to change routines. Some complained that they had difficulty sleeping when they were red-tagged; some said that there were times when they lost their “sense of purpose.” 

The study recognized that deciding to stay on and continuing to work was the greatest form of pushback. Solidarity, the filing of cases, campaigns, and newsroom actions, among others, were recommended as collective and shared responses. 

“This study, based on documented cases as well as discussions with actual targets of red-tagging, is our response to those claims and a closer look at how this policy — done by government officials and continuing to this day — harms media workers, restricts truth-telling, adds to the chilling effect on the media community and affects the public’s access to relevant, truthful and timely information,” NUJP’s statement on May 18 said.

CMFR in its ‘State of Press Freedom report 2024’ pointed to the need for effective defense, requiring “knowing the reality, the landscape, and the terrain of journalism and news. Knowing the sources of threat and attack and understanding the means of perpetration is half the battle.” CMFR calls on journalists to know what is going on, share the knowledge, and study cases under different administrations.

This study is a first step to holding the perpetrators accountable. Readers can access and download the study here: https://nujp.org/no-tag/