Media groups in Mindanao slam red-tagging of CDO journalists

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Several media organizations slammed the recent red-tagging of two veteran journalists based in this city.

Froilan Gallardo of Mindanews and Cong Corrales, associate editor of Mindanao Goldstar Daily, were among those red-tagged in anonymous materials recently sent to the Cagayan de Oro Press Club office and the Cagayan de Oro City Hall.

The materials that came from a courier service identified the sender as a certain Danilo Tirso Mantangan of Sitio Camansi, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the materials separately targeted Corrales and Gallardo. The flyer that targeted Corrales came from a certain "Black Mamba" of the "MAT-NMR Press Club Chapter" and claimed, among others, that there's a P1-million bounty for his death.

The Mindanao Independent Press Council (MIPC) condemned the series of red-tagging incidents involving Corrales and other journalists in Mindanao. 

"At its core, red-tagging anyone in the media profession is tantamount to suppression of the freedom of the press and the right to free expression. Such baseless allegations could force any targeted journalist to exercise self-censorship, and smacks of prior restraint," MIPC President Edith Caduaya said.

Caduaya noted that those who have red-tagged Corrales have not presented evidence to support their claim against the journalist. 

"When [journalists] go out of line, libel laws can be invoked by any injured party. In short, legal venues are available when any citizen, journalist or not, is deemed to have broken the law," she said. 

"There is no recourse, however, when phantom personalities resort to vicious propaganda against any member of the press whose lives are public in character and whose views are readily accessible to the general public."

Caduaya then called on authorities to "issue concrete statements against any act of red-tagging of any journalist or citizen" and to "implement tangible steps to prevent any act of red-tagging by any government personnel or entity."

The MIPC also called for a "sensible dialogue" between media groups and security forces "to tackle the problem of red-tagging not just as a serious security issue for journalists, but also as a matter that hinges on human rights."

The Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) also urged intelligence and law enforcement authorities to investigate the recent red-tagging incident and "expose the perpetrators."

"We have just learned that two of our active members have once again been the subject of red-tagging. Time and again, the COPC has condemned this unfounded accusations against members of the press," the COPC said.

The group added, "In the exercise of fairness, obtaining stories from non-government entities as sources, even if they are perceived to be critical of the government, does not make a journalist a Communist rebel or a terrorist." – Rappler.com