IFJ Welcomes Ruling on Coverage of Philippines Massacre Trials

The International 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 delivered.


“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 massacre.


“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.


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919


The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries


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