By Alexandria San Juan
Various media groups gathered in a forum in Quezon City on Thursday to decry the continuing cyber-attacks they claimed being hurled by the administration against independent and alternative media outfits in the country.
Representatives from Rappler, Bulatlat, AlterMidya Network, Kodao Productions, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) have condemned recent attacks against alternative news sites, which they believed are “politically-motivated.”
“For two months now, online media outfit Bulatlat is subjected to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, aiming to wipe out the website from the worldwide web,” Ronalyn Olea, managing editor of Bulatlat said.
The DDoS, Olea said, is a kind of cyber-attack that overloads the server of a website using compromised computers to shut it down.
She noted that this attack started on December 26 last year after the site published stories on the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines and even became more aggressive beginning January 19.
While Bulatlat managed to be back online after taking protective measures, other alternative media outfits such as Kodao Productions and Pinoy Weekly were also taken down due to the attack.
Olea has tagged apparent “agents” of President Rodrigo Duterte behind the cyber-attacks after Qurium, a Sweden registered non-profit foundation, revealed that attackers are using keywords “Duterte,” “XD,” among others to flood their website.
Qurium, which has been mitigating the attacks on Bulatlat until today, also found out that attackers are based in the Philippines and are using hidden virtual private networks (VPN).
With this, Olea pointed out that the cyber attacks against Bulatlat and Kodao add to the “intensifying media repression in the Philippines.”
This was echoed by University of the Philippines associate professor Danilo Arao saying that the cyber-attacks versus Bulatlat is “politically-motivated” through groups with money to burn to bring down a small news site.
Arao also warned cyber-attackers that they are now seeking legal actions, such as filing a case against them.
“We haven’t named the companies attacking Bulatlat but we will likely file cases against them,” he said.
Meanwhile, journalist and LODI convenor Inday Espina-Varona added that the harassment on media follows the narrative arc of the President’s attacks on people which starts with vilification campaign.
“The lesson, like in ‘tokhang’, note that once the government succeeds in imposing dictatorship, everyone’s interests will also be affected,” Varona explained.
The AlterMidya Network, a national network of independent and alternative news organizations in the country, also condemns this continuing series of cyber attacks against members Bulatlat and Kodao Productions.
“With hostility versus media, our coverage, fact-finding missions, visit to workers’ strikes, are put in danger,” AlterMidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla bared.
Padilla also called on journalists to defend the right to know of the public and to fight not only the attacks on media but also on truth reportage.