I do not necessarily agree with Reporters Without Borders listing of the Philippine government or the Duterte Administration as a press freedom digital predator because of the opposition faced by ABS-CBN’s efforts to renew its legislative franchise.
In fact, I continue to be skeptical of foreign “press organizations” that continue to publish reports and ratings of press freedom in the Philippines based on news reports or even assessments from their associates here in the Philippines.
Human Rights Watch, for example, is an organization I encountered during my work with President Duterte’s Presidential Task Force on Media Security which aided in the pursuit of conviction of those who perpetrated the Maguindanao Massacre. In a number of instances, Human Right Watch’s Caloy Conde was caught several times basing his reports to the foreign press organizations on news reports which he did not himself validate. In a number of instances, his tally of supposed government sanctioned killings were erroneous as it included homicide cases unrelated to the government’s anti illegal drugs drive.
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In my mind, I tend to lump organizations like Reporters Without Borders (RSF) with organizations such as Human Rights Watch and others.
It doesn’t help that in its 2020 list of 20 Press Freedom Digital Predators, it makes a bare claim that “call center hubs” are being used in “Disseminating fake or maliciously edited content, and fake memes, conducting targeted harassment campaigns“.
Even more disconcerting is RSF’s claim that “President Duterte’s supporters have launched a campaign to smear and boycott the ABS-CBN radio and TV network with the aim of blocking the renewal of its licence. They have even gone so far as to denounce an imaginary conspiracy by various media outlets to overthrow the president. Cyber-troll armies, which have become big business ever since Duterte’s 2016 election campaign, support and amplify the messages of members of the government with the aim of smearing the media and manipulating public opinion.”
That’s a rather ham-fisted way of going about using RSF in ABS-CBN’s fight to renew its legislative franchise. It’s just too damned lazy.
If I were to read more into RSF’s allegation of call centers being brought to bear against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal efforts, I would think it would be saying that government resources were being used for a propaganda war against a legitimate privately owned media organization.
That would, in fact, be saying that a privately owned media organization was being illegally penalized by government using public funds to employ criminal means that would amount to libel.
If RSF were to go about using rigorous and legitimate means to expose what looks like government funded thuggery, it would have to use its Filipino associates to dig into the executive branch’s budget allocations for intelligence as well as communications to find proof that actual call centers or its equivalent in a government set up is being deployed against ABS-CBN.
That would be nearly impossible in the case of intelligence funds but not so for government agencies with hefty communications budgets.
To unmask such an operation, it could use a program to mine and map publicly searchable posts on social media and links on search engines for clues leading to their source or sources.
Eventually, this could lead to identifying social media accounts and websites. But even then, these social media accounts and websites may still be virtually anonymous.
Then again, with persistent sleuthing and perhaps given the enormity of such an operation, there’s bound to be a trip up somewhere.
It could be one or several call center agent coming out into the open to admit to such an operation being perpetrated against ABS-CBN and showing clear evidence of such.
But, until then, this call center theory is another one of those conspiracy theories.
I still maintain though that the overt, rather than covert, means of keeping ABS-CBN from getting its legislative franchise renewed is the one at play here.
On the judicial front, some see the hand of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco — whose son Cong. Lord Allan Velasco is supposedly in a term sharing agreement with current House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
On the legislative front, we see the hand of House Speaker Cayetano who was reported to have admitted to stalling deliberations on bills proposing the grant of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise.
Para que pa ang deep dive?