IFJ Welcomes Ruling on Coverage of Philippines Massacre Trials

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National

Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in welcoming the success of a petition to the

Supreme Court for live media coverage of the Ampatuan Massacre trials.

 

The decision will allow television

and radio networks to air proceedings from the high-profile trials of up to 197

suspects, including former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr, former

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan, and former

gubernatorial candidate Andal Ampatuan Jr.

 

All three are accused of plotting

the massacre that took place in Maguindanao, in the southern Philippines, on

November 23, 2009. The charges relate to 57 of the 58 people murdered.

Thirty-two of those killed were media personnel.

 

However, the NUJP

has expressed concern over some of the rules of the coverage, which may hinder

the ability of television networks to cover the trials. The Supreme Court’s

decision states that networks must air coverage without commentary or

commercial breaks, and cannot repeat footage from the trials until a verdict is

delivered.

 

“This important decision is

vindication of the tireless campaigning of the victims’ families, colleagues

and press freedom activists in the Philippines, and reflects public

disquiet about the efficacy and transparency of the proceedings,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“The decision is without precedent

in the Philippines,

and is highly significant in that it sets jurisprudence and opens the

door to eventually more transparency in the judicial process.”

 

The petition was submitted to the

Supreme Court last November 19 by the NUJP

with several of the victims’ families, colleagues, academics and three of the

biggest media organisations in the Philippines.

 

Philippines President Benigno Aquino

III expressed his support for the petition in a letter to Supreme Court Chief

Justice Renato Corona on November 22, the eve of the one-year anniversary of

the massacre.

 

“The decision is a triumph not just

for the Philippine media community, which lost 32 members in the carnage, and

for the victims’ families, but for the Filipino people as well since it is they

who truly have a stake in seeing justice done for a crime that strikes at the

very foundation of our existence as a nation under the rule of law,” the NUJP said.


“When we filed the petition, we were actually hoping against hope since

existing jurisprudence was against allowing the live coverage of court

proceedings. The decision will ensure that public interest in the trial and the

issues surrounding it will not wane.


“We thank the families of the victims, the ABS-CBN, GMA and TV5 Networks, and

other colleagues who joined us in filing the petition, the Public Interest Law

Center led by noted human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong who crafted the

brilliant brief that we submitted to the Supreme Court, and the Filipino people

as well as our friends and colleagues all over the world who have kept close

watch on the case and joined their voices to ours in the call for justice.”

 

The Supreme Court’s decision however

upholds the ban on reporters’ use of recording devices and still cameras inside

the courtroom, which the petition had also sought to remove.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +61 2 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

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IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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