attacks against media

Government behind majority of red-tagging cases involving journalists – NUJP study

Jairo Bolledo

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Government behind majority of red-tagging cases involving journalists – NUJP study

FOR FRENCHIE. The groups National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Altermidya Network, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines submit a letter to the Department of Justice on February 7, 2024, urging the agency to review the cases against campus journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

Altermidya Network

For the study, the NUJP conducted a survey and focus group discussions among journalists who were red-tagged under the Marcos and Duterte administrations

MANILA, Philippines – The government was behind a majority of the red-tagging cases involving Filipino journalists, according to a study of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) released on Saturday, May 18.

In its study titled “No Tag: Press Freedom for Pluralism,” the NUJP said 60% or more than half of red-tagging in the last eight years were state-sponsored. The state’s red-tagging involved the use of intimidating method of “dropping by, or sending a letter, that cites different government policies as the basis.”

The NUJP is an organization of Filipino journalists that advocates media rights and press freedom.

The study showed that the other cases of red-tagging of journalists were caused by influencers or unknown individual or groups. The NUJP said the red-tagging incidents by unknown perpetrators used physical methods, such as posters. But these unknown perpetrators mostly used social media to red-tag, amplified by pro-President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. or pro-Rodrigo Duterte accounts.

For the study, the NUJP conducted a survey and focus group discussions among journalists who were red-tagged under the Marcos and Duterte administrations. As recently defined and acknowledged by the Supreme Court (SC), red-tagging is the use of threats and intimidation to “discourage subversive activities.” The SC also noted that red-tagging is a threat to one’s life, liberty, and security.

In total, the NUJP recorded 159 incidents of red-tagging incidents against journalists from 2016 to 2024. But the organization noted that the number did not represent the “full picture,” as they “acknowledge that some incidents went unreported due to victims’ fear for their security and safety.”

At 90 cases or 56.6% were journalists from alternative media (journalists who cover often underrepresented and marginalized sectors). Meanwhile, 69 cases or 43.4% were journalists from dominant or mainstream media.

“This shows that red-tagging does not only affect the alternative news outlets, which are typically assumed – especially by the State – to be left-leaning news organizations,” the NUJP said.

The NUJP also said that of the 159 incidents, there were only six cases or 3.7% where the journalists’ respective news organizations took a concrete step to address the red-tagging of their journalists.

Impact on mental health

In the study, the NUJP said that mental health impacts, such as fear and anxiety, were evident among journalists during the interviews. However, red-tagging affected student journalists the most, who said it “messed with their head and led to serious cases of depression.”

Professional journalists, meanwhile, deal with fear, anxiety, paranoia, and guilt, according to the study.

“I was so guilty that he was just trying to help the community, and then I have to write that story, and he was red-tagged too,” Mindanao Gold Star Daily editor in chief Cong Corrales said, sharing his story about the time he wrote about a community pantry leader who was red-tagged after he featured him.

For journalist Atom Araullo, red-tagging also affects personal relationships. Araullo has a pending legal battle against Lorraine Badoy, former spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), whom he sued for red-tagging him.

“In my case, when I see some of my former acquaintances or friends, and I see that they react to posts that red-tag me, or that discredit me as a journalist, either simple like or sometimes they will share it, then, you know, I would count that as an effect on my personal life,” Araullo said, as quoted in the study.


To respond to red-tagging against journalists, the NUJP recommended to mainstream media that they continue their solidarity efforts with red-tagged journalists, whether these media workers are from mainstream or alternative media. The NUJP also recommended to media organizations and other groups to create a mechanism where red-tagged journalists can have access to legal support.

The organization also urged news organizations to adopt a stronger internal protocol in responding to red-tagging.

As to the government, the NUJP said the state should take red-tagging complaints seriously, probe the allegations, and hold accountable perpetrators who will be found liable. The NUJP also urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to communicate a clear policy to stop red-tagging.

Why this matters

The red-tagging of activists and progressive individuals intensified under Duterte, especially when he signed Executive Order No. 70 which created the NTF-ELCAC. Red-tagging did not only affect activists and human rights workers, but also journalists.

Journalist Lady Ann Salem, editor of red-tagged news organization Manila Today, was arrested along with six other activists on December 10, 2020, during the celebration of International Human Rights Day. Salem and her companions later walked free from jail after courts nullified the warrants used against them.

Prior to Salem, another red-tagged journalist, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, was arrested over illegal possession of firearms in 2020. Cumpio and her companions were nabbed in Leyte during a series of raids led by the Philippine military. Unfortunately, Cumpio remains detained and marked her fourth year in jail last February.

Must Read

Not yet justice, but SC ruling gives activists fighting chance vs red-tagging

Not yet justice, but SC ruling gives activists fighting chance vs red-tagging

The lack of a definition of red-tagging had been advantageous to government officials and influencers because when a person challenges their acts, these officials can deny red-tagging since there was no legal framework that defined it. The new SC ruling gave red-tagged individuals a fighting chance against those who attack them.

The SC’s categorical pronouncement that red-tagging is a threat to life, liberty, and security can be used as basis in filing criminal complaints, on top of civil complaints, against perpetrators of red-tagging. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.