Blatant attack on press freedom

Community News & Features May 1, 2005 at 2:17 pm

Statement of Philippine Press Club-Ontario

We, members of the Philippine Press Club-Ontario (PPCO), a non-partisan organization of media practitioners with Filipino background in Ontario, view with utmost concern the killing of journalists in the Philippines. We consider these killings as a blatant attack on press freedom.

Since 1986, the year democracy was supposedly restored after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship, 66 journalists have been murdered. Last year alone, 13 were felled by assassins’ bullets. From January to April this year, four journalists have already been killed. The Philippines now has the reputation of being second only to Iraq as the most deadly place for journalists to work in. And the Philippines is not even in a state of war.

As we issue this statement, there is a report about the shooting of a broadcaster and pastor in Cotabato City, southern Philippines, who this time survived the attempted killing.

There is a pattern in these killings: the victims were those who had exposed corruption in government or had spoken against the human rights violations by the police and the military. These violent attacks on journalists are happening at the same time that human rights activists – peasants, workers, and leaders of party-list groups — who expose abuses by people in power, are being killed, kidnapped, or incarcerated. This spate of assassinations that had resulted in 32 deaths since January of this year, was condemned in a statement signed by 75 members of the Philippine Congress. One Filipino Senator even demanded that Congress monitor the investigations being conducted by the police.

We note that the International Federation of Journalists, with members from 110 countries, had stated recently that the main reason for the deaths of 66 Filipino journalists is a “culture of violence, encouraged by government inaction.”

It is reported that except for one case, in all the other cases of the killing of journalists no one has been prosecuted or convicted.

We join and support international journalists, other organizations and individuals who have spoken on this issue: the UNESCO Director-General, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Association of People’s Lawyers, Reporters Without Borders, among others. We support the national campaign led by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), and the stand of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (an organization of 200 ethnic media organizations in Canada) urging an end to the killing of journalists and to seek justice for the victims.

We petition the Philippine government to take decisive actions to effectively stop these killings, and to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are prosecuted.

April 21, 2005