Step in the Right Direction for Journalists' Safety in the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the arrest of the chief suspect in the murder case of radio commentator Rowell Endrinal.

On May 26, Clarito Arizobal, chief suspect in the February 11, 2004, murder of radio commentator Rowell Endrinal was arrested in Legaspi, southeast Manila, following three weeks of police surveillance.

"This is certainly promising news, but the Filipino law enforcers are still a long way off securing unbridled safety for Filipino journalists", said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

The arrest follows the murder of two Filipino journalists this month. Following 13 killings in 2004 and five this year, the total journalists' death toll since 1986 comes to 68.

At a May 24 senate hearing, Philippines police boasted that they had solved most of the murders involving Filipino media practitioners, but have not imprisoned any of them.

"The inefficiency of the Philippines justice system to prosecute journalists' killers is contributing to a culture of violence and is effectively condoning violence," said Warren.

Just last week, on May 20, unknown gunmen shot at radio station DZRH-Pangasinan's patrol vehicle; onboard was radio commentator Allan Sison. Though Sison escaped unharmed, Pangasinan Tri-Media Association Inc president Ronald Hidalgo condemned the act saying:

"It is a direct assault on the institution of the media and needs prompt response of government investigative agencies in unmasking the perpetrators".

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) notes an improvement in efforts undertaken by authorities in speeding up investigations into the murders of journalists since Filipino President Gloria Arroyo's speech in April 2005 to delegates of the Interparliamentary Union in Manila.

"Simply identifying the killers and instigators of these murders is insufficient in securing safety for Filipino journalists; the perpetrators must be apprehended and made to serve their time", said Warren.

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