The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Wednesday, August 19, denounced government attacks against journalist Atom Araullo over his documentary on a Lumad school in Metro Manila. (READ: Teaching without schools? Lumad education under lockdown)
NUJP said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) “should stop attempting to control the narrative by vilifying” people with contrary views.
NUJP said it is the same “incredulous tactic” the government uses to link critics to communist insurgency.
“We do take exception that the NTF-ELCAC has chosen to insinuate that the documentary, by going against its point of view, is somehow supporting the ‘enemy’,” NUJP said.
“It is ironic that an agency that professes to defend democracy seeks to stifle freedom of the press and freedom of expression, without which no society can claim to be democratic. We stand solidly behind I-Witness, Mr. Araullo, and ‘Ang Iskul Kong Bakwit,’ ” it added.
After the airing of "Ang Iskul kong Bakwit" on GMA's I-Witness on August 14, a statement supposedly issued by some Indigenous Peoples leaders condemned Araullo for what they described as “blatantly propagandistic documentary.”
But the NUJP said the task force, in the guise of quoting IP leaders, is pushing government’s claims that these Lumad learning institutions are “terrorist training camps.” (READ: DepEd formally shuts down 55 Lumad schools in Davao)
In their statement, the IP leaders accused Araullo of being “biased” for airing a story that “was one-sided” and said they plan to declare him as persona non-grata in their community. San Miguel IP Mandatory Representative Datu Rico Maca even connected Araullo – through his mother, Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo – to groups supporting communists.
Rappler sought Araullo's comment Wednesday and Thursday, August 20, but he has not replied.
NTF-ELCAC was created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 as a final gambit to end the 5-decade old communist insurgency. To achieve this, the task force has been behind the relentless red-tagging of progressive groups and journalists on social media, and helped coordinate the arrests of a number of activists.
Its official Facebook account has posted misleading accusations about embattled broadcast giant ABS-CBN and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, among others. (READ: Duterte's final gambit to end insurgency: Task force vs communists)
Disinformation against activists and journalists has spread fast this year. The Philippine National Police, for one, has been posting and sharing hateful messages and fake news, making their targets vulnerable to online and on-ground attacks. (READ: With anti-terror law, police-sponsored hate and disinformation more dangerous) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org