Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the renewed red-tagging of journalists perpetrated by a show aired at Kingdom of Jesus Christ pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s television station, Sonshine Media Network, Inc. (SMNI).

Former undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz, hosts of SMNI’s “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” accused the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) as a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) during their program aired on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

They also accused Jonathan de Santos, news editor of and NUJP chairperson as a member of the CPP-NPA during his younger years.

The hosts would switch conversations identifying and naming various activists as members and accusing non-governmental organizations as fronts of the CPP-NPA.

In a statement,  Carlos Conde, HRW senior researcher, said red-tagging is not considered to be something new that the organization is doing and it seems that they are just devoting themselves more time in red-tagging people.

“As we all know, red-tagging is not just simple harassment – it is meant to put the red-tagged in harm’s way. Many red-tagged activists have been victims of extrajudicial executions.” 

De Santos made light of the accusations made against him by the SMNI hosts calling them ‘jokers’ for even addressing his younger years. 

“Napaka-jokers niyo naman. Active lasenggo ako nung kabataan ko. Wala akong time diyan,” he said in a tweet.

De Santos stressed that most journalists, especially those in the provinces, who are red-tagged do not have immediate access to safety and security once they got harassed by these baseless accusations.

“Marami sa mga red-tagged — lalo na sa probinsya at lalo na sa community at alternative press — ay walang kaparehong safety at security kaya mas malaki ang impact sa kanila ng ganito,” he said.

Conde said it was a very ironic and tragic moment for every journalist defending press freedom for the red-tagging to happen on the same day the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day.

“That the SMNI hosts did their abominable red-tagging on World Press Freedom Day, arguably the most important day for journalists in the world, is not only ironic — it is tragic, and only underscores the need for journalists to defend their freedom to report the news and hold power to account,” he added.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said it has recorded 75 c.ases of violations against media workers since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office in June 2022

SMNI, owned by Quiboloy who is wanted by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for “conspiracy to Engage in Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion, and Sex Trafficking of Children; Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, and Coercion; Conspiracy; Bulk Cash Smuggling” has a history of accusing journalists of being past or current members and NGOs as fronts of the CPP-NPA without providing any evidence to prove their accusations.

Ronalyn Olea, managing editor of Bulatlat, and NUJP secretary-general, was called an “operatibong internet operator” for the CPP-NPA while journalists Atom Araullo, Inday Espina-Varona, and Vergel Santos were branded as communist “operatives” in Oct. 2022.

Kevin Ortiz