HomeNewsRed-tagging study shows impacts on journalists, stresses need for pushing back

Red-tagging study shows impacts on journalists, stresses need for pushing back

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) launched its study on the red-tagging of journalists and media groups in the Philippines.

“Defenders of red-tagging have often claimed that the practice does not happen, or that if it happens, it is not done by the government,” the organization said.

Since 2016, NUJP has documented at least 159 incidents of red-tagging against individual journalists and media organizations, with state agents and other actors going as far as to target members of both the alternative and dominant media across the country.

There is, however, no law in the Philippines that defines or penalizes red-tagging.

The government instead has been downplaying and denying the existence of red-tagging, stating that there is no government policy on this. But reports from various people’s organizations say otherwise.

Meant to silence journalists

The comprehensive study was conducted through surveys and focus-group-discussions (FGDs) with journalists. Combined with the organization’s existing data from its Media Safety Office, the study revealed a pattern of state-sponsored red-tagging that affects the mental health of journalists, with little recourse to institutional help.

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“Student journalists were targets of the most intimidating ‘state method’ of drop-by (going to the student’s houses), whereas professional journalists were mainly red-tagged by unknown perpetrators on social media,” the study said.

“Of the 159 reported incidents, 58 were done through clear state methods with identifiable sources of attacks like the police, army, intelligence, and lists from the Department of Justice and Department of Interior and Local Government,” the study revealed.

NUJP’s study found that as high as 60 percent or more than half of the red-tagging incidents against journalists in the last eight years have been state-sponsored, and 19.8 percent of the red-tagging by State used the intimidating method of dropping by or sending a letter, that cites different government policies as the basis.

This does not include the infamous April 2019 “Duterte Ouster” matrix; a diagram that linked media organizations and journalists to a purported plan to oust the then President Rodrigo Duterte.

In her last visit, United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan reminded the Philippine government that the essence of freedom of speech and expression is dissent and criticism.

According to Khan, red-tagging has been identified as among the leading threats against Filipino journalists. She added in her recommendations the need for an executive order or any measure that would discourage the practice of red-tagging and discipline those who would violate the policy.

A recent Supreme Court ruling backed this claim and declared red-tagging as a threat to a person’s right to life, liberty, or security, which may justify the issuance of a writ of amparo, a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda penned this decision during the Supreme Court En Banc, granting the writ of amparo in favor of Siegfred D. Deduro, an activist and former representative of the Bayan Muna party list who was accused by the military of having links with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

The decision added that it found sufficient evidence in Deduro’s petition warranting the issue of a writ of amparo. Although it is uncertain whether ‘red-baiting’ threats can eventually develop into actual abduction or killings of the supposed ‘reds’ Deduro should not be expected to “await his own abduction, or worse, death, or even that the supposed responsible persons directly admit their role in the threats to [his] life, liberty, or security…”

“It is easy to comprehend how a person may, in certain circumstances, develop or harbor fear that being red-tagged places his or her life or security in peril. This Court has demonstrated its understanding of this fear,” the decision said.


Filipino journalists have been pushing back against red-tagging through their campaigns and filing of charges.

Cagayan de Oro-based journalist Cong Corrales, one of the most red-tagged journalists in the country, filed a complaint against big technology companies like Meta for accountability and to unmask his red taggers online.

Journalist Atom Araullo also filed a civil case against Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Badoy-Partosa who had been relentlessly red-tagging multiple media and human rights personalities in their daily broadcast.

In Baguio City where NUJP launched the study, journalists and civil societies are pushing the local government to pass a local human rights defenders ordinance that would define and punish red-tagging.

No less than Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a retired police general, was red-tagged in the past for saying that Baguio is a “human rights inclusive city.”

Such pushback resonates with the bigger media community as seen in the first Philippine Media Safety Summit where journalists, media workers, educators, human rights and press freedom advocates affirmed their call for the protection and safety of journalists in the country.

In the joint declaration signed by ninety-three individuals, they condemned the continuing killings of journalists and the lack of resolution of cases, as well as the deliberate targeting of journalists and media organizations.

“The government should perform its Constitutional mandate and duty to stop the killings and all forms of violence against citizens including mainstream and campus journalists and media workers, and to properly investigate crimes committed against them, including ‘red-tagging,’ trolling, and other forms of online hate and violence. The government should work for the immediate release of journalists wrongfully charged and imprisoned without cause,” said the declaration.

The summit was jointly convened by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC), CCJD, Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Freedom for Media Freedom for All (FMFA) Coalition, MindaNews, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.


The study also revealed the importance of solidarity.

“Continue reporting, and stand in solidarity with those who are harassed,” that was the overwhelming recommendation of red-tagged journalists to their colleagues,” the NUJP study said.

It also stressed the need for practical support: a free legal network that journalists can easily access whenever they are red-tagged. It recommended that news organizations adopt a more robust internal protocol to respond to red-tagging attacks on any of its staff; including mental health support since red-tagging has had a big mental impact on journalists.

“One of the best reactions we saw (while making the study) was the solidarity, not just among journalists but also from civil society,” said Janvic Mateo, a correspondent of the Philippine Star and assistant editor-at-large at OneNews.ph. He was also a researcher for this study.

“Different organizations really band together and support the victims of the red-tagging,” he said, adding that the solidarity of journalists against red-tagging even managed to break the ‘divide’ between mainstream and alternative media. “We saw how important the community is in fostering support and even adding a layer of protection for the victims.” 

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