IFJ Calls for Public Commitment to Journalists' Safety in the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide has today called on the Philippines Government, business leaders, police, the army and media employers to make a public commitment to journalists' safety in response to the killings of three journalists in the Philippines in the last seven days.

"The safety situation for journalists in the Philippines is at an horrific all-time low," said IFJ President Christopher Warren today.

"Key opinion-makers in the Philippines need to make a public commitment denouncing violence against journalists, " said Warren.

On 29 September 2004, Romeo Binungcal, correspondent for the Manila-based tabloids Remate and Bulgar, was shot in the head with a .45 calibre pistol by unidentified assailants while riding his motorcycle at 4.00am on the boundary of Balanga City and Pilar town in Bataan province.

The IFJ is also saddened by the recent killings of journalists, Jose Villanueva and Christopher Misajon. Jose Villanueva, assistant business editor of Today newspaper, was stabbed to death on 24 September in Manila by thieves attempting to steal his cell phone. Christopher Misajon, newsreader for GMA television network, was shot in Iloilo on 23 September during a robbery. Suspects have been arrested and the IFJ calls on authorities to ensure speedy investigations into both these cases.

Binungcal's murder comes in spite of recent efforts by President Arroyo and the Philippines Government to break the culture of violence directed against journalists in the Philippines. The efforts include the introduction of a taskforce to investigate the murder of Roger Mariano, killed on 31 July, and the lodging of a resolution in the Philippines House of Representatives calling for an independent inquiry into the 56 cases of journalists who have been killed in the Philippines since 1986.

This recent change in attitude has seen the Philippines National Police arrest suspected killers of Arnnel Manolo, who was murdered on 5 August, Ely Binoya, killed on 17 June and Edgar Damalerio, murdered in May 2002.

"The slaughter of journalists is a blight on the human rights record of the Philippines and threatens the very foundations of democracy in that country," said Warren.

The IFJ has also called on all Philippines media employers to provide adequate insurance and safety training for journalists and has called on all politicians, police, army and business people to make a public commitment to promote respect for independent media and denounce any form of violence, vilification, threats or harassment directed toward journalists.

"Every time a journalist is killed anywhere in the world it is a tragedy. Simply put, the journalists' death toll in the Philippines is nothing short of a national disgrace," said Warren.

Binungcal was the seventh journalist to be killed in 2004 in the Philippines, matching the gruesome record in 2003. Fifty-six journalists have been killed since 1986. There have been no successful convictions to date.

For further information please contact Christopher Warren +61 411 757 668

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries