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
“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 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.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +61 2 9333 0919
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