Nestor Burgos Jr
National Union of
Journalists of the Philippines
to Congress of the NUJP
On behalf of the International Federation of Journalists I am pleased
to send you and all the colleagues of the National Union
of Journalists of the Philippines
a message of solidarity and goodwill on the occasion of your Congress.
Scarcely a day has passed
since the terrible events of 23rd November last year when we have not thought
of the implications of the tragedy in Maguindanao province. The massacre has
left an indelible scar on the face of journalism and has been deeply felt by
journalists around the world. This appalling loss of life has come to symbolise
a deepening crisis within journalism globally. Increasingly we see targeting
and violence against independent journalists as a first choice of ruthless
political forces in their constant efforts to prevent media exposure of
corruption and malpractice in public life.
Within the IFJ we have
referred time and again to the massacre as the worst and most brutal example of
complacency in the face of impunity in the killing of journalists. In the Philippines,
the authorities bear a heavy responsibility for creating an enabling atmosphere
for brutality against journalists to take place and to go unpunished. But what
has happened in Maguindanao could equally happen in Mexico,
in Sri Lanka, in Afghanistan or in Iraq, or in many other countries
where political instability and the absence of the rule of law makes journalism
an easy target.
A month ago in New York at
the General Assembly of the United Nations, the IFJ with the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, once again called for the
international community to renew its commitment to challenge impunity and to
give teeth to the United Nations Resolution 1738 which for the first time challenged
governments to protect journalists in conflict zones.
The nature of conflict today
is not easy to define. Increasingly we find journalists trying to report on
social disorder caused not by formal set-piece confrontation between armed
forces, but in areas where private armies, gangsters and paramilitary groups
operate forms of terrorism that threaten the local population. When journalists
seek to report on these developments or ask difficult questions they become
frontline victims. We have a duty not just to assist them, but to demand forms
of international and national protection that will be effective.
This is the challenge that we
are taking up after the massacre. The price paid by journalists and their
families in the Philippines
has been unacceptably high for years. It is a matter of urgency that we support
our colleagues at the NUJP in their
efforts to turn the tide and to create a safe and ethical working environment
for all journalists in all corners of the country.
We also express our solidarity
with your campaign for justice in the workplace. Journalism is scarred not only
by an intolerable threat of violence, but also by the routine and scandalous
exploitation of journalists and corrupt employment practices. It is time for a
new start in journalism that respects the right of all journalists to decent
work and decent pay.
In all of this the International Federation of Journalists will support
you. We salute the officers and members of the NUJP
in their continued struggle for justice and we pledge to speak out at all
levels of our work to end the injustice of the events a year ago in Ampatuan Town. We honour who those died and in
their memory we will do everything we can to ensure that such a tragedy is
never repeated, not just in the Philippines,
but anywhere around the world.
In solidarity and with best wishes.