IFJ Fact-Finding Mission Condemns Safety Crisis in the Philippines as Delegation is Snubbed by the President

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is disappointed that Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cancelled an appointment with delegates of the IFJ's international fact finding mission to the Philippines.

The delegation, led by senior Australian journalist Gerard Noonan and including journalists from Indonesia and the Philippines is in the Philippines to investigate the rising number of journalists targeted and killed for their craft. As part of the mission, a meeting with the representatives was scheduled with President Arroyo's office for today, 31 January 2005 but was unexpectedly cancelled.

More than 50 journalists have been murdered in the Philippines since 1986 - 13 were murdered in 2004 alone making the country second only to war-torn Iraq for the number of journalists killed during the year.

On Sunday, 30 January the delegation announced at a press conference in Manila that a widespread culture of violence tolerated by high level Philippines Government authorities, is behind the high journalists' death toll.

"When such a culture is allowed to flourish at an official level, it is little wonder that aggrieved local strongmen or political figures turn to hit men to get even with the media," said Noonan.

Poor working conditions of journalists and the lack of safety support from employers were also reported by the delegation as being contributing factors to the high death toll.

"Vast numbers of journalists are receiving a pittance or nothing at all for their work. They are being exploited and sometimes forced into conflict-of-interest situations, and do not receive safety support from their employees either, " said NUJP Chair, Inday Espina-Varona.

Rustam Fachri Mandayun of the Indonesian magazine Tempo said news organisations "should pay serious attention to educating their audience on grievance procedures to allow a venue for complaints against journalists."

The delegation travelled to General Santos in Mindanao, Iloilo and Cebu in the Visayas and Legazpi in the Bicol region to meet with representatives of the Department of Justice, police officials, Mayors, Governors, victim's family members and a representative of the Commission on Human Rights.

The IFJ and the NUJP will request the Philippines Government reopen several of the cases based on the mission findings. A complete report documenting each case, the mission's findings and recommendations will be available in February.

More information contact: Gerard Noonan +61 (0) 407 624 004 or Inday Espina Varona at +63 (0) 916751 2522
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries