Attempt to silence journalist on Lumad story 'cheap, desperate' – NUJP

MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the alleged attempt to “silence and intimidate” its former national chairperson Inday Espina-Varona.

In a statement released on Sunday, September 20, the NUJP called the Facebook post which painted Verona as a “propagandist” of communist rebels “cheap and desperate.”

The post came after her reports on the September 1 killings of Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur by paramilitia allegedly linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). (READ: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

“[This] is a cheap and desperate move to discredit a highly respected and multi-awarded journalist who has consistently fought for the rights of journalists and against unjust and oppressive acts on the marginalized,” the group said.

The post, published on the “Justice and Truth shall Prevail” Facebook page, said that Varona’s reporting shows her as an “asset” of groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front.

Varona, former editor-in-chief of the Philippines Graphic magazine and a Marshall Mcluhan fellow in 2007, has been vocal in her posts and reporting on issues relating to the indigenous people in Mindanao.

This includes the misrepresentation of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command on the statement of United Nations Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani on the Lumad evacuation from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. (READ: Military grossly distorted my views on Lumad evacuees – UN rapporteur)

In a Facebook post on Saturday, September 19, Varona said that despite the “madness of the logic,” threat still exists.

“Journos recognize a threat when we see one,” she wrote. “The madness of the logic does not minimize the threat, especially because we know what people are capable of when they can no longer distinguish between criticism and dissent and rebellion.”

The veteran journalist added that these should be reported to “send notice and to show people what kind of people issue these threats.”

“The view that espouses that is the threat,” Varona said. “We must expose that mindset, whether it targets a journalist, an activist, a priest, a lawyer, a judge.”

NUJP said the red-tagging against Verona is alarming and indicates the existence of "martial law mentality" almost 30 years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

“(Red-tagging) is a tactic that has been used against activists and political dissenters, many of whom were subsequently targeted in summary killings, abduction and persecution through the filing of trumped-up criminal charges,” the group said. 

“We demand that authorities investigate and apprehend those behind these attempts to intimidate Varona and other journalists exposing human rights violations and other injustices,” it added. – Rappler.com