Six years on: Justice denied in the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in expressing sympathies to the victims and the families of those killed in the Ampatuan Massacre six years ago. The IFJ and NUJP condemn the Philippine government led by President Aquino III for its continued inaction in bringing those responsible to justice and providing support to the families left behind.

On November 23, 2009 58 people including 32 journalists were brutally murdered in Maguindanao in the south of the Philippines. It is the largest massacre of journalists in history. The victims were travelling in a political convoy when they were ambushed, murdered,. Following the massacre in 2009, an international mission led by the IFJ visited the Philippines and the massacre site in Maguindanao. The mission found that the massacre could not have taken place without the existing culture of impunity in the Philippines, particularly in regards to extrajudicial killings and attacks on the media.

Since 2009, there has been strong local and international condemnation and campaigning to bring those responsible to justice, and demand adequate compensation for the victims and their families. To date, four witnesses have been killed; however what is arguably even more disturbing is that since the Ampatuan Massacre, 42 journalists and media workers have been murdered in the Philippines. This chilling continuity clearly demonstrates that the culture of impunity remains ingrained across the Philippines, with journalist safety virtually nonexistent. This year alone, 8 journalists have been brutally murdered simply for exercising their duties.

In 2014, to mark the fifth anniversary of the massacre, the IFJ and NUJP led a mission to the massacre site, to meet with the families and government ministers, and demand action. During the meetings with the government officials in Manila, the International Mission demanded action on the investigations, labelling the Philippines an ‘epicentre of impunity’ for journalist killings in the intervening years, noting how the deaths now outnumber the massacre.

In January 2015, the International Mission published Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On, which represents the findings of the International Solidarity Mission to the Philippines in November last year marking the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in 2009. To date, not a single killer has been convicted and at least four witnesses have been killed with the trial of 193 suspects expected to drag on for many years.  The report included a number of recommendations for justice and law enforcement reform, and calls for further international support and media commitments to journalist safety.

This year, the Philippines has been a focus of the IFJ #EndImpunity campaign, and throughout the campaign, the IFJ has called on the Philippines government to take a stand and #EndImpunity for crimes against journalists. The IFJ wrote  to President Aquino calling on him to implement a number of recommendations, drawn from the Ampatuan Massacre report.

In a statement, NUJP chairman, Alwyn Alburo said: “Six years after Ampatuan, six years of continued impunity, six years of unfulfilled promises and broken dreams. We would say good riddance Benigno Aquino III but no, you cannot and should not be able to wash off the blood on your hands, for which we promise to hound you and hold you accountable.”

IFJ Asia Pacific said: “It is deplorable that six years on from the single deadliest attack on journalists in history, not a single person has convicted. The situation in the Philippines is frightening. This year, 8 journalists have been killed for simply doing their jobs, making it the deadliest country in the Asia Pacific region. Impunity has become part of the country, with journalist killers and the masterminds walking away scot free more often then not. Action needs to be taken immediately to end the culture of impunity.”

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

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries

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