Atom Araullo filed a P2 million damage suit against two SMNI hosts due to alleged red tagging.
In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter), the broadcast journalist said he submitted the civil complaint for damages against Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz of television network SMNI on Sept. 11 in line with a "series of unsubstantiated accusations and personal attacks" the pair has supposedly made against him and his family "through their programming on SMNI and on various social media platforms."
"It is my considered belief that the nature of their remarks goes far beyond the boundaries of fair criticism, and are designed to discredit, intimidate, and foment public animosity towards both me and my family. It also seems to be part of a broader pattern to harass and undermine members of the media whose reporting does not fit their agenda," he said.
While he initially opted to "ignore their attacks owing to their apparent absurdity," Araullo explained that he has seen "how treacherous, persuasive, and harmful disinformation can be, especially when left unchecked."
"I am doing this for the safety and well-being of my family, but I also hope it contributes in a modest way to protecting press freedom in general," he continued.
Araullo clarified he's not filing a criminal case against the two SMNI hosts as he is "against the criminalization of libel and would prefer not to invoke it because it also endangers legitimate journalism."
"Still, malicious perpetrators of disinformation must be stopped and held accountable. This is a unique challenge of our time, especially for journalists who are duty-bound to uphold the truth," he concluded.
Badoy is a former undersecretary during the Duterte administration and the ex-spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). She made the headlines several times for red-tagging several personalities, including former vice president Leni Robredo.
Last July, Badoy on SMNI gave a shout-out to Araullo's mother Carol, rhetorically asking why doesn't she recruit her son into the New Peoples Army. Carol in the same month filed a complaint against Badoy. In 2020, the NTF-ELCAC red-tagged the broadcast journalist for his documentary about a Lumad school.
In a statement, The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it supports Araullo for the legal action, as journalists like him "seek redress for damages and injury they have suffered due to the defamatory statements maliciously disseminated by these vicious red-taggers."
"Red-tagging poses serious risks to the safety and security of those unjustly labeled as 'communist-terrorists,' 'communist propagandists,' and the like," the NUJP said. "This dangerous narrative is used to justify arrests, trumped-up charges, surveillance and other forms of harassment against human rights defenders, including journalists."
The organization noted how journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio is still in jail over fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and financing terrorism.
There have also been 19 red-tagging incidents under the Marcos Jr. administration, according to NUJP.
"This practice has to stop. It’s time for these malign red taggers to face the full force of the law," it said.