IFJ Calls on Government to Offer "Real Protection" for Philippine Journalists on World Press Freedom Day

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fears death threats, intimidation and attacks instigated, by both ex and current members of the police force, against journalists will continue unabated if the Philippines Government refuses to take action.

"It's time for the police and Government to step in and offer journalists real protection and support in the face of unacceptably hostile government authorities," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"The disturbing culture of impunity for those who threaten and harass the independent media in the Philippines is a reflection of a dangerous environment in which journalists are working."

"Last year, the Philippines was the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq. The Government must take immediate action to protect journalists and root out corruption within police ranks."

World Press Freedom Day

Media organisations throughout the Philippines are marking World Press Freedom Day with a human chain for press freedom in Quezon City. The chain will be light by 100 torches to represent the role of a truly free press in a democratic society.

The event comes after President Arroyo recently said the country needed "a strong, free and independent media to safeguard our democracies and keep their political leaders on the straight and narrow."

"Here in the Philippines and in other nations, journalists have been slain in pursuit of the truth. I salute these defenders of democracy and declare to those who perpetrate such crimes, your days are numbered."

The IFJ calls on President Arroyo to back up her pledge by ensuring the protection of journalists and initiate immediate, independent investigations into recent attacks and threats made against journalists.

Journalist shot

During the last four months three journalists have been directly attacked in violent attempts on their lives.

On 29 April, DZXE commentator Nestor Seguismundo was shot in the stomach during a drive-by shooting at his residence. Seguismundo has been critical of police officials, calling for them to step down for failing to stem criminal activities including assassinations and drug trafficking.

Two other reporters, Max Quimbo of Tagum and Pablo Hernandez of the Metro Manila, Bulgar, have also been attacked.

Death threats

Journalists in both print and broadcast media have reported a new rash of death threats to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), prompting the organisation to call for an investigation by the police.

NUJP chairperson, Inday Espina-Varona, and NUJP's chair for the committee to protect journalists, Jose Torres Jr, urged the Director General of the police, Arturo Lomibao to live up to his claim that he is a friend of the free press and takes steps to protect journalists.

"The new rash of reports imply that enemies of press freedom are ignoring warnings from the Philippine National Police (PNP)," they wrote.

"The NUJP is highly perturbed that the recent threats come from those tasked with the duty to protect citizens from criminals."

Four journalists threatened

Louie Logarta, a columnist for the Daily Tribune, received death threats for writing reports critical of the customs enforcement and security service chief, and retired PNP Chief Superintendent, Nestorio Gualberto. Logarta believes the threats were prompted by Gualberto in retaliation for the reports.

MBC-Aksyon Radyo police reporter in Iloilo City, Johnny Diaz, was sent a death threat via text message after an expose on illegal drugs in which he named senior police officers who may be protecting drug dealers. The message warned Diaz that he would be killed if the MBC-Aksyon's news reports lead to the relief of Senior Inspector Clarence Dongail, who was included in the report.

On 28 April, broadcaster, Annie Calderon, and Visayan Daily Star reporter, Gilbert Bayoran, were nearly run down by a car being driven by Reynaldo Reyes, driver for police Senior Superintendent Charles Calima Jr. Reyes claimed he did not see the reporters and Superintendent Calima dismissed the allegation as a "tall tale concocted by his detractors".

The IFJ condemns any actions, which threaten journalists working for the independent and free press.

For further information contact IFJ President Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries