Philippines Presidential Candidates Must Defend Journalists

The

International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) calls on all candidates running for President in the Philippines to

make a public commitment to overturn the country’s culture of impunity for the

killing of journalists and to observe and respect the independence of the

judiciary.

 

The call comes as the Philippines

Government announced it would drop charges of multiple murder against Zaldy and

Akmad Ampatuan.

 

The pair have been implicated in the

massacre of 58 people, including 32 members of the media, in the southern province of Maguindanao on November 23.

 

“Less than a month before national

elections on May 10, and five months after the massacre, this sudden

announcement is alarming for what it says about the commitment of power-holders

to end the culture of impunity for the killing of journalists,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

The

IFJ believes the decision, made by the Philippines’ Acting Secretary for

Justice, Alberto Agra, suggests political interference in the judicial process.

 

The

Ampatuan family is known for its support of the Government of Gloria Macapagal

Arroyo, and for involvement in voting irregularities that benefited President

Arroyo in 2004 and 2007.

 

“The

IFJ urges the Arroyo administration not to tarnish its record further by

impeding justice at this late stage in its term of office,” Park said.

 

“The Government must allow the

judicial system to determine the guilt or innocence of the two accused.”

 

The

National Union of Journalists of the Philippine (NUJP),

an IFJ affiliate, said in a statement, “It is not for us to proclaim the

innocence or guilt of either Ampatuan . . . But neither is it for Agra to do so. Not after

the charges have been formally filed in court. Not after the judge has issued a

commitment order against them.

 

“It

should now be for the court to judge the innocence or guilt of the 197 persons

accused of planning or carrying out the massacre.”

 

The

IFJ also calls on the presidential candidates to disclose what steps they will

take to ensure that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippines National

Police are fully trained in understanding their responsibility to provide

safety and security for journalists, in accord with the Government’s

obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738.

 

The

IFJ further urges the Philippines Department of Justice to ensure that all

court proceedings regarding the Maguindanao massacre are transparent and that

the public is permitted to scrutinise the conduct of the trial. A dedicated website

should be set up to publish all court documents and proceedings, and broadcasts

of the massacre trial must be permitted.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000

journalists in 125 countries worldwide