The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today pledged its full support to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in an urgent campaign on news safety as reports emerged that up to 20 media people died in yesterday’s massacre of journalists and political campaigners in the Philippines.
Some 46 people were killed in the atrocity in the troubled Maguindanao province in the south of the country, among them at least 12 journalists and around eight media staff, according to the latest information from the NUJP branch in Mindanao. It is reported that 22 bodies have been recovered so far.
The NUJP is sending an immediate mission to Maguindano to investigate the circumstances around the killings, to provide immediate support to the families of the victims, and to assess the security failings and safety needs for the region. The IFJ has made available its International Safety Fund to provide humanitarian support.
The IFJ has criticised the failure of the Government of Gloria Arroya, which today announced a state of emergency in the Maguindano province, to tackle the crisis of impunity in the killing of journalists and media staff in recent years.
“The Arroyo administration must make a clear and unequivocal commitment to an immediate, independent and effective inquiry into this atrocity,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “With elections due in six months time the authorities must act now to guarantee the safety of journalists throughout the country.”
Under the current government the Philippines has become the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. At least 74 journalists have been killed during its eight-year tenure, yet the Government has not acted to end the culture of impunity. At last count, only four convictions had been secured.
The journalists slaughtered on Monday were part of a convoy led by Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, who was on her way to file her husband’s nomination as a candidate for the forthcoming election for governor of Maguindanao. Around 100 armed men ambushed the convoy and took them to a remote location before executing them.
The NUJP, which has a long history of investigating murders of journalists and campaigning against the culture of impunity for killings, will conduct its own investigation in Mindanao.
The IFJ is considering next steps and is supporting plans by the International News Safety Institute to organise urgent safety training for local journalists. “We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and colleagues of all those killed in Maguindanao,” said White. “And we are determined to keep an international focus on this crisis. It is a traumatic and horrifying incident that means all journalists must now take even greater care.”