58 dead, 5 years, 0 justice in The Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is joining its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) as they launch their week-long campaign to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in Maguindanao, in the Philippines and calls on journalists and the media to join in the campaign for justice against the single biggest massacre of journalists in history. Five years on from Ampatuan, the IFJ and NUJP are outraged at the lack of progress in the case that has yet to make one successful prosecution and 98 suspected perpetrators remain at large.

Five years ago, on November 23, 2009, 58 people were murdered, including 32 journalists as they traveled in a political convoy in Maguindanao, in the south of the Philippines. The IFJ mission straight after the massacre, Massacre in the Philippines, and found that it could not have taken place without the existing culture of impunity in the Philippines, particularly regarding extrajudicial killings and attacks on the media.  

This week, the NUJP announced a list of activities leading up to the the 5th year of the Ampatuan Massacre including:

·         November 20 – November 24: An international mission led by the IFJ and the NUJP from Nov 20 to 24 in General Santos and Manila.

·         November 21: A visit to the site of the massacre by the families of the victims as well as officers and members of NUJP.

·         November 23: An art installation revisiting the Ampatuan Massacre will be unveiled at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, in Quezon City.

·         November 17 – 23: The social media campaign titled 58 dead. 5 years. 0 justice. Ampatuan Massacre 11.23.2009 is underway. NUJP asks its members and fellow press freedom advocates to use the NUJP icon  (an image of the backhoe used to bury the victims) as their profile picture up to November 23 to serve as a reminder of the gruesome killings.

The Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines (PCP) will join the commemoration of the Ampatuan Massacre by posting "black photos" in broadsheets and tabloids. NUJP and other media organizations will be holding forums and round-table-discussions in schools, colleges and universities (TBA).

The IFJ-NUJP mission will be meeting with the families of the victims of the massacre, and the local media. It will also visit the massacre site on November 21, and will meet with government officials including the Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and the head of the media killing task force, Usig, Colonel Henry Libay.

The international mission delegates will also join the million candle activity at the EDSA Shrine on November 23,  joining with the Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility, international media and the International Freedom of Expression network which is focusing its global activities on impunity on the 5th anniversary.

The NUJP said the commemoration activities intend to "look back and see how five years of corruption and apathy have conspired to thwart not only justice for the 58 Ampatuan victims but allowed the impunity with which journalists, farmers, indigenous people, religious and others whose only crime is to exercise their right to free expression, continue to be murdered."

"From today until November 23 and beyond, let us remind this government of its unfulfilled and broken promises of justice, of respect for our basic rights and freedoms, of good governance."

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, Jane Worthington, said: “After five years, the slow passage of this complicated trial has brought no justice to the victims’ families and meanwhile created a landscape of utter impunity for crimes against the media.”

Since the Ampatuan massacre, another 33 media workers have lost their lives in the line of duty – including four this year, according to the IFJ.

“In 2009, in the days after the massacre the IFJ and a global mission demanded action and justice for this heinous crime. This week we return to the scene to represent the global media and freedom of expression community and demand answers on what measures and actions the Aquino administration has actually taken to stop that killing,” Jane Worthington said.

The IFJ stands united with its affiliate in demanding that President Aquino must acknowledge the voices of thousands of journalists outraged with the culture of impunity that jeopardizes democracy in the Philippines and puts journalist in mortal danger every day.

The mission is due to release an interim report at a press conference in Manila on Sunday, November 23.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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