The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on
the Philippines President, Benigno Aquino III, to ensure the country’s Congress takes strong action to protect journalists and
media workers, who continue to fear for their safety almost one year since the
massacre of 58 people, 32 of them journalists and media workers, in the country’s
acknowledging that President Aquino has held office for just six months, the
IFJ is outraged that violence against journalists and media workers in the Philippines
continues unchecked,” IFJ President Jim Boumelha said.
“Too little is being done by
authorities and power-holders in the Philippines to achieve
justice for those murdered on November 23, 2009 and to ensure such an atrocity never occurs
Day of Action, coordinated by the IFJ with the National Union of Journalists of the
Philippines (NUJP), will be
held on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 to mark one year since the Ampatuan Town massacre
The massacre,the world’s
single biggest atrocity against journalists, was the lowest point in a decades-long culture of impunity for the
killings of media personnel in the Philippines, bringing the toll of media killings in the country at that time to 136 since 1986, according
to the NUJP, an IFJ affiliate.
Another four media workers have been
murdered this year. Many other journalists across the Philippines continue to endure
serious threats because of the content of their reporting.
Of 196 suspects in the massacre, 19
are now on trial while 130 remain at large. Most of those still free are police
and members of private militias.
“The failure to charge and detain
all accused, and the slow prosecution of the trials, is obstructing the
delivery of a clear and firm message to the public and international community
that impunity for media killings will not be tolerated,” Boumelha said.
“With just four convictions recorded
for murders of media personnel in the Philippines
since 1986, the massacre trials must secure credible convictions that will
provide justice for the families and colleagues of the Ampatuan
Town victims, and assist to end
impunity in the Philippines.”
The IFJ and the NUJP reiterate their appeal to the Aquino Government
to ensure the first session of the 15th Congress, ending July 2011,
initiates measures to assure media of protection, so that journalists can
safely fulfil their role in serving the public.
The following recommendations derive
from the report of an IFJ-led international mission to the Philippines
last December and an action plan submitted to Aquino on his inauguration:
· Allocate sufficient
resources for the prompt and transparent conduct of trials for all suspects
implicated in the Ampatuan
· Direct authorities and law enforcement agencies to provide
all evidence in the massacre case to the prosecution.
· Direct authorities and law enforcement agencies to charge
and prosecute all 196 suspects.
· Support the petition to the Supreme Court for live coverage
of the massacre trials, in keeping with the demands of the NUJP and other civil society groups.
· Enact judicial and legislative reform to ensure that justice
is delivered swiftly in all cases where media personnel are murdered, including
compensation and counselling for families of victims.
· Establish an independent taskforce and/or rapid response
teams to investigate promptly all threats and attacks against media personnel,
and to ensure their protection, with special attention to members of the
government, military and police involved in anti-media threats.
· Implement a secure witness protection program immediately,
with requests for guidance from international authorities as necessary.
· Secure Congressional support for full enactment of the
Freedom of Information Bill which was rejected by the previous Congress.
· Decriminalise libel and other measures which impede
journalistic inquiry and freedom of expression.
· Issue a Congressional statement committing the Philippines
to defending journalists’ rights, in line with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and UN Security Council Resolution 1738, which
reaffirms the civilian status of media working in areas of conflict.
· Take responsibility to lead a process of national
reconciliation by conducting a series of public meetings and a public awareness
media campaign in support of media freedom, democracy and human rights in the Philippines.
As a measure of the Government’s
commitment to achieving these objectives, every reasonable effort must be made
to achieve significant progress by July 24, 2011, the nominal end date of the
first regular session of the 15th Congress.
In the case of the massacre trials,
the Government must direct judicial authorities to nominate a timeframe for the
arrest, trial and prosecution of all 196 suspects, and commit all required
resources to achieving this goal.
The IFJ stands willing to provide
assistance to achieve implementation of these recommendations, should the
Government of the Philippines
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific