Ampatuan Town Massacre: The Lessons We Can Never Forget

Nestor Burgos Jr

Chairperson

National Union of

Journalists of the Philippines

 

Dear Nestor,

 

Re: Message

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.

 

 

Aidan White

General Secretary

International Federation

of Journalists