International Solidarity Mission Arrives in Philippines

An

international emergency mission led by the International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) arrived in the Philippines

today to support local journalists and the National

Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in the wake of the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao Province, Mindanao, in

which 32 journalists and media workers were killed.

 

The delegation

comprises representatives from leading journalists’ rights and press freedom organisations

including the IFJ, the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Committee for

the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), the Alliance of Independent Journalists

(AJI), the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the Thai Journalists’

Association (TJA), International News Safety Institute (INSI), International

Media Support (IMS), the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information

(ISAI) and Union Network International

(UNI).

 

The

mission, organised at the request of the NUJP,

an IFJ affiliate, will visit General Santos City

and Manila to

meet the families of victims, the local media community, lawyers and government

authorities and officials.

 

The

delegation is expected to meet a representative of President Gloria Arroyo on December 9, to press

home international and local demands for

a full and credible investigation into the massacre of at least 57 people in

all.

 

On the

same day, the

IFJ has called for all its affiliates and partner organisations across the

world to join a Global Day of Solidarity in support of the Philippines

media community.

 

The international mission will take

into account the findings of an independent fact-finding report prepared by the

NUJP with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and members

of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), and the Mindanao-based

news agency Mindanews, who conducted their own inquiries in Mindanao

last week.

 

The fact-finding team verified that

of the 57 people known to have been killed on November 23, 30 were journalists and

media workers. Another media worker remains missing.The list of media fatalities is available here.

 

“The massacre claimed nearly an

entire generation of journalists from the small print and broadcast communities

of General Santos, Koronadal

City, and nearby areas,”

the report said. “At least 22 of the 31 named media personnel were married and had children,

indicating an enormous need for continuing humanitarian assistance.”

 

Among the media personnel killed, 22

worked for newspapers and tabloids. Most of the media personnel were based in

General Santos

City.

 

Freddie Solinap, the publisher of

the weekly Periodico Ini, said his paper

had lost four of its six staff, or the full complement of media personnel on the

paper.

 

The fact-finding report raises a

series of concerns about investigations by authorities into the massacre and

the conduct of military personnel in the area where the massacre took place.

 

The report notes that gaps in the

work of the police, investigators and prosecutors have not been given

sufficient national media coverage.

 

Key issues identified in the report include

the following:

 

­     Poor handling and contamination of the massacre site.

 

­     Poor handling of the remains of bodies.

 

­     An apparent preference for testimonial rather than physical

evidence.

 

­     A detachment of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units

(CAFGU), under the command of the military, was positioned near the massacre

site, but claims it did not see the convoy of cars carrying those who were

killed.

 

­     The enormous weapons arsenal of the Ampatuan family, which

is implicated in the atrocity, has not been fully confiscated.

 

­     It is imperative to disarm all clans, political families in

the area.

 

­     Missing or still undisclosed documents from local and

national authorities include the police case referral report, which should

contain a summary of the evidence and findings of the investigator, and serve

as basis for the prosecution of the case/s.

 

­     There are also no publicly available copies of presidential

issuances covering the grant of so-called “blanket authority” for Interior and

Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to deal with the “state of emergency”

in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato

City. 

 

­     Government resources were used to fly the lawyer of Andal

Ampatuan Jr, the main suspect, since charged with murder, from Cotabato City

to General Santos City.

 

­     The government response has not eased the anxiety and fear

of local residents and media workers in the affected areas, and threats to the

safety and security of the communities linger.

 

“The international

mission will deliver a strong message to the Arroyo Government that its long-held

complacency toward horrific levels of violence against media personnel over

many years cannot and will not continue,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“The IFJ

honours the great courage of journalists in the Philippines and the NUJP as it does all it can to support the families

of those killed on November 23 and to fight for justice for their colleagues

and their families.”

 

For more

information on the IFJ Global Day of Solidarity, in which journalists’

organisations worldwide are encouraged to take action to demand an end to

anti-media violence in the Philippines,

see http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/urgent-ifj-philippines-appeal

 

To read

the NUJP independent fact-finding

mission report, click here

 

 For further information

contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612

9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 125 countries worldwide