IFJ Calls on Phillippines to Act as Crisis of Media Violence Spins “Out of Control”

The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, says the media crisis in the Philippines has reached crisis point with the assassination on Sunday of the sixth journalist this year.

In a letter to the President, the IFJ has called for the authorities to properly investigate these killings. “The situation in the Philippines is clearly out of control,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren today.

The IFJ intervention follows the murder of radio journalist Juan Porras Pala who was killed on 6 September 2003, adding to a death toll which the IFJ says ranks the Philippines equal to Colombia as the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.

Pala was a fiercely independent journalist, sharply critical of local politicians and communist rebels. He was murdered by two unidentified gunmen while leaving a friend’s home in Davao on the southern Philippines Island of Mindanao.

“The IFJ deeply regrets this loss, and we are very concerned at the intolerable level of violence against journalists,” said Warren. He said the Federation was planning to review the crisis in the country and will consider sending a mission to the Phillippines to investigate and to press the Government to take urgent action.

The IFJ is supporting its affiliate in the Philippines, the National Union of Journalists, which has called for a prayer vigil for slain Filipino journalists tomorrow evening (10 September) in Malate, Manila.

Pala presented a daily program on local radio station DXGO. Previously there had been two attempts on his life. The first occurred on 14 June 2001, when three bullets hit him fired by four masked men with M-16 rifles and Uzi submachine guns. Since then he has had bodyguards constantly with him.

Paras Pala was attacked again on 29 April 2003 when riding in a taxi. His bodyguards returned fire forcing his attackers to flee. An investigation was launched by the Mayor of Davao. However, to date, no arrests have been made.

The IFJ says that Pala is the 42nd journalist to be killed in the Philippines since 1986 and all 42 cases remain open with no arrests to date. This latest attack follows only days after the deaths of radio journalists Noel Villarante and Rico Ramirez 19 and 20 August respectively.

“This is an intolerable situation,” said Warren. “The killers must be found and brought to justice. Government complacency in this continuing wave of terror is unacceptable and denies justice to the family, friends and colleagues of the victims.”

The IFJ plans to raise the issue with the United Nations and to demand that the Philippines carries out a full investigation into violence against media. “It’s time for the authorities to take their responsibilities seriously and to ensure the safety of all journalists and media workers in the Philippines,” said Warren.

For further information, please contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries