Alternative News Sites Down in Cyber-attack

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Three alternative media websites have been inaccessible since 26 December 2018 after they posted stories on the 50th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

As of press time, the home pages of Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly said the sites are “temporarily unavailable” and “forbidden,” respectively. A Pilipino Star Ngayon report said the website of the video production group Kodao, which was down in the early hours of December 26, was back online in the evening. But the website was again inaccessible as of December 28, its home page saying “the account has been suspended.”

Ronalyn Olea, managing editor of Bulatlat, told Pilipino Star Ngayon that their web host support reported large traffic of infected malware to their site as the reason for its deactivation. Pinoy Weekly posted on its Facebook page that their server decided to temporarily suspend their website “because of a very high volume of traffic.”

In a statement, AlterMidya, a national network of independent and progressive media, denounced the shutdown of the sites, saying the three websites were “evident targets of distributed denial of service or DDOS attacks.” AlterMidya said, “We cannot underscore enough the important role of the media in checking on the excesses of executive power and guarding of citizen rights — especially now against the clear threats of tyrannical rule.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the attacks in an earlier statement, adding that plainclothes men believed to be military or police operatives were recently seen in the vicinity of the office building of Kodao and other activist organizations tagged by the government as legal fronts of the revolutionary movement.

NUJP itself was red-tagged and accused of being a communist front by a certain Mario Ludades, who claims to be a CPP founder and former member. Ludades’ statement against NUJP and other organizations such as the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the League of Filipino Students (LFS) was quoted by some online reports. NUJP called the accusation absurd, but said it is treating the matter seriously as it puts the organization’s members at risk.

In January 2017, NUJP’s website was hacked after publishing statements against the government’s crackdown on the media.

Following the resumption and cancellation of peace talks with the communist movement, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 on 23 November 2017 to formally terminate negotiations. Prior to the CPP’s 50th anniversary, Duterte ordered the military to “destroy” the CPP, “including its legal fronts and infrastructure.” Martin Andanar, Communications Secretary, said in a radio interview last December 23 that party-list and non-government organizations supposedly allied with the CPP are included in Duterte’s order.