Press groups condemn use of government data to harass Mindanao journalists  

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Press groups condemn use of government data to harass Mindanao journalists  
File photo taken during a rally calling for press freedom.
The STAR / Krizjohn Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines — Press freedom advocates have expressed concern over the recent use of leaked government data to harass two Cagayan de Oro journalists, one of whom has also previously been red-tagged and sent death threats.

In a statement on November 4, the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) scored the recent “doxxing” incident involving two of its members: Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales, editor-in-chief of Mindanao Gold Star Daily; and Menzie Montes, reporter of iFM RMN CDO.

According to the COPC, an anonymous Facebook account “exposed” Corrales’ and Montes’ information sheets from the City Housing And Urban Development Department of the City Government of Cagayan de Oro.

“The act of 'doxxing' against Corrales and Montes has put an impression that once members of the independent press avail government programs, they are no longer allowed to be critical watchdogs to checks and balances - which should never become a culture nor a practice,” the group said.

The press club also called on the city government’s housing personnel and Cagayan de Oro Mayor Rolando Uy to help in identifying the person behind the anonymous Facebook account for the filing of a complaint.

Doxxing refers to the act of putting out someone’s personal information in an environment that implies or encourages intimidation. This is typically done online and is used as a way to target or harass an individual.  

According to the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an organization that provides legal aid to journalists, the doxxing done to journalists often starts with “a slew of abusive phone calls and text messages from random numbers, sometimes in conjunction with a series of harassing tweets and emails.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) - Cagayan de Oro Chapter also condemned the incident and pointed out that the apparent leakage of the journalists' personal government data is a "violation of trust."

"Apart from the maliciousness of exposing a journalist's private information , which exposes them to further risk of harassment or worse, it is also a violation of the trust that citizens put in government when submitting their personal information for official transactions," NUJP said.

"There is also no contradiction in Corrales and Montes availing of government services like socialized housing while also being critical of government. Both acts are within their rights as citizens and their duties as journalists," the group added.

In 2019, Corrales and MindaNews journalist Froilan Gallardo were red-tagged in flyers that accused them of having links to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army — claims they have both denied.

RELATED: CHR looks into red-tagging of Mindanao journalists 

The flyer also included a false claim that there was a P1 million bounty for Corrales’ death.

At the time, Corrales said the threats against him might have been in relation to a column he had written on the treatment received by Higaonon evacuees from Misamis Oriental when they went to Cagayan de Oro to seek help from the provincial government.

The Philippines has remained on the list of countries where killers of journalists go unpunished for 16 consecutive years, according to the latest Global Impunity Index released by New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

— with reports by The STAR / Janvic Mateo

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