Just moments after their updates on the war against drugs and “Know Your Rights” advisory, two websites were down last Friday, July 29 in what were suspected to be hacking attacks.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism or PCIJ posted on their social media account how their two websites were attacked and became inaccessible online.
“There has been an attack on our websites, www.pcij.org and www.pcij.org/blog. This is the reason why our sites are not accessible at this time. The attack follows the publication of PCIJ reports on the drug war of the President Rodrgio Duterte administration, and our ‘Know Your Rights’ advisories for citizens,” the post said.
Our websites have been attacked, following our stories on the drug war of the Duterte gov’t, and “Know Your Rights” advisories for citizens.
— PCIJ (@PCIJdotOrg) July 29, 2016
It concluded by saying, “We hope to go back online shortly.” As of this writing, only the www.pcij.org is working while the other one is still down.
The source of the attacks is not yet available, but PCIJ noted something in the malicious content inserted in their posts. “A phrase with explicit curse and threat has been written by the attackers into our stories,” the PCIJ social media post said.
What is PCIJ and what did it post on its sites?
PCIJ is a media group known for its in-depth investigative news stories that cover many aspects of an issue. Malou Mangahas, PCIJ executive director, hosts a TV documentary program that features such stories, presenting new angles to further clarify issues.
For instance, on its website, pcij.org, it released reports early in July on the details of the anti-drug activities of the police based on the data of the Philippine National Police (PNP) itself.
In said article, PCIJ cited PNP statistics showing how 10 drug suspects are killed daily, based on how there were reported 135 persons killed within two weeks of his administration starting, July 1 to 13. You can find the report here.
Another PCIJ article on the site reported that 192 drug suspects were killed in just 9 weeks, from May 10 to July 10. The data were not invented or unfounded because they came straight from the PNP—the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management itself, to be specific.
The other website, the pcij.org blog, published an advisory on “Know Your Rights” which is simply a reminder for readers on the basic rights they should know especially when being arrested.
A sample rights poster, actually a material from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and which was translated to Filipino by PCIJ, is featured on the site k2.abs-cbnnews.com.
A website host usually only cancels, suspends, or terminates a site if it is deemed to be engaged in terrorism or espousing violence, and especially if it aims to topple a government. Since PCIJ is not of that nature, the sites were probably hacked by parties that didn’t like getting the reading public too informed about facts on the anti-drugs campaign of the PNP.
Or, the hackers probably timed the hacking just after PCIJ came out with the updates and advisory to make it look like the PNP did it.