|How many more must die?|
|Written by the UP College of Mass Communication|
|Wednesday, 23 November 2011 19:38|
Despite President Benigno Aquino III's pledge that his administration will stop the killing of journalists, twelve have been killed since the Ampatuan Massacre of Nov. 23, 2009 claimed the lives of 58 men and women, of whom 32 were journalists and media workers.
Neither the glacially slow trial of the accused in that massacre, nor the pledge Mr. Aquino made in his 2010 State of the Nation Address that he will "hold murderers accountable," has made much of an impression on those who resent press attention. Not only have journalists been killed since November 2009. A number have also been threatened, sued for libel on the flimsiest grounds, barred from attending interviews and press conferences, and physically assaulted. In one of the more recent incidents, unidentified persons also burned a Catholic Church-owned radio station in Occidental Mindoro.
Mr. Aquino's "hold murderers accountable" statement was the last he has made about the murder of journalists. He has since been silent on the subject, although he has criticized the press from time to time for its alleged bias against his administration and focus on his personal life.
At the same time, his administration has taken almost none of the steps agreed upon between media advocacy and journalists' organizations and his communication group and the department of justice in July, 2010 as necessary to stop the killings. Among these were the formation of Quick Response Teams to immediately investigate the killing of journalists and to assure the integrity of evidence in the crime site, and Malacanang support for the reform of court rules and procedures to speed up the judicial process.
Mr. Aquino's silence on the most recent incidents of journalists' murders is equally unforgivable. And yet a statement from him each time a journalist is murdered declaring his impatience over the failure of the police to prevent it, and immediate police action in furtherance of the filing of the appropriate cases as a consequence, could help make would be killers hesitate by suggesting that things have changed and they could be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, Mr. Aquino has rejected the dismantling of private armies, even if they not only made the Nov. 23 massacre possible, but have also been a factor in some cases in the 100 other places in the country where warlords have also privatized government security forces.
What has always been clear is the imperative of showing the killers and would- be killers of journalists that they can't get away with murder. State failure to punish most of the killers of journalists—only ten have been convicted since 1986 out of 122 cases—is after all what continues to encourage not only the killing of journalists in the Philippines, but also their harassment. The whole world has known it since 2003, when the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists found that the killings were due to the weaknesses of the justice system, and called for immediate government action--which, as usual, the past administration ignored.
Today Mr. Aquino seems to be as unconcerned over the killing of journalists in the Philippines as his predecessor, despite the rest of the world's being sufficiently alarmed to have declared Nov. 23, 2011 the International Day to End Impunity in recognition of that event's significance not only to the state of press freedom in the Philippines, but also to the safety of journalists everywhere.
Dean Luis V. Teodoro
College Executive Board
Dr. Nicanor G. Tiongson
REPS and Staff
[Statement of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication on the second anniversary of the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.]