A veteran online news site from the Philippines, Bulatlat, is suffering violent cyberattacks since 19th January. Ronalyn Olea, Bulatlat’s managing editor, says they believe the aggression is politically motivated: “The Duterte administration is known for being ruthless in violating human rights. It has deliberately launched a campaign to undermine the Philippine media in its effort to prevent people from opposing his policies”.
Bulatlat is the Philippines’s top alternative online news site. Their website has been down for several days due to the attacks. In one of them, the attackers used nearly 2,000 computers to saturate the website and make it unreachable. In another attack, they sent 3 million packets per second of bogus traffic.
“A “crazy amount” of attacks have been launched to bring down one of the country’s longest running news websites”, Bulatlat published in their Twitter account after a week of continuous attacks, that began on 19th January. The attack on the 25th was already so disproportionate that, during an ongoing offensive, Bulatlat migrated its website to the secure hosting infrastructure of Virtualroad.org, a non-profit hosting provider specialized in defending independent media and human rights against digital attacks.
While the cyber attacks have intensified, no one has claimed the attacks and explained why they are attacking this medium. Olea has a reason: “Since its establishment in 2001, Bulatlat has been critical in its reportage and has exposed not only the human rights violations related to Duterte’s “war on drugs” but also those committed by state security forces in rural areas”.
Bulatlat, says Olea, “has also exposed Duterte’s subservience to neoliberal policies that wreak havoc on the economy”. And, previously, “under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, Bulatlat was tagged as one of the ‘enemies of the state'”.
The philippine People’s Alternative Media Network has denounced that there are other media under attack. Their national chairperson, Luis Teodoro, told Philstar.com that the news site of Kodao.org is also target of distributed denial of service attacks. According to Teodoro, The cyberattacks happened after stories on the Communist Party of the Philippines’ 50th anniversary were posted.
“We are alarmed at the direct attack against these outfits, which are among the most committed not just in truth-telling and reporting, but also in persevering against the state’s assault on press freedom and freedom of expression”, said Teodoro.
The Bulatlat news site was also attacked in December 2018, and that was not the first aggression against the media outlet. Olea assures that some journalists have been physically surveilled: “Our reporters are being tailed after publishing controversial stories”.
The cyber attack is ongoing as this article is written, and you can follow its development via this article.
Clara Zid, Outreach and Media Manager <firstname.lastname@example.org>