The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes a decision by Judge Simeon Dumdum to endorse the arrest warrants of two suspects in the murder of journalist Marlene Esperat in the Philippines in 2005.
Two officials from the Department of Agriculture, Osmena Montaner and Estrella Sabay, challenged the warrants issued on Feburary 4, 2008, arguing that they were outside the court’s jurisdiction.
However, Judge Dumdum, of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 7, of Cebu City, concluded that the case was an extension to the court’s first ruling against four men already sentenced to life imprisonment for Esperat’s murder.
Esperat, a journalist for the weekly Midland Review, was gunned down inside her house in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, while having dinner with her family on March 24, 2005. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, Esperat was targeted because she exposed misappropriation of funds within the Department of Agriculture.
“This is one step forward for the Philippines police, courts and judicial system in reducing the frequent targeted violent attacks against journalists,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“The decision by Judge Dumdum should set the precedent for courts to pursue thorough investigations into violence against journalists.
“All journalists should be able to practise their profession without fearing for their personal safety. Local authorities and the judiciary play an important role in ensuring press freedom can prevail by protecting journalists and all members of society against violence.”
In its 2007 report, Confronting the Perils of Journalism in the Philippines, the IFJ-NUJP Safety Office recorded 91 murders of journalists and media workers in the Philippines over 20 years. The only convictions recorded for the murder of a journalist are those of Estanislao Bismanos, Gerry Cabayag, Randy Fernandez-Grecia and Rowie Barua, sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006 in relation to Esperat’s murder. Only eight other investigations remain active.
The IFJ joins the NUJP in welcoming Judge Dumdum’s decision to uphold the arrest warrants in the Esperat case and moves by the police and the courts to pursue cases of felony against journalists. This action should serve as a warning that those who believe they can intimidate and bully journalists into silence will be prosecuted.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries