The 2014 campaign marking the five-year anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre was no silent commemoration.
Leading up to the anniversary, organisations, politicians, activists and concerned citizens around the world raised their voices to call for an end to the staggering lack of progress in this ongoing criminal trial.
While the massacre is known around the world, this somber anniversary was particularly significant in the Philippines, where hundreds of people gathered at a candle vigil in Manila organized by IFEX member Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on 23 November.
Videographer Edzon Mario Rapisora's powerful video on the candle light vigil in Manila, Philippines.
Inspired by CMFR's local vigil, similar gatherings were held around the world, including Beirut, Copenhagen, Toronto and London. As the moving photographs in our image gallery convey below, the message at all these events was the same: the massacre has not been forgotten, and five years is too long to wait for justice.
A digital wall to take the campaign online
This year's digital campaign was designed so that people around the world could participate in the Ampatuan vigils, regardless of their geographic location. Using a novel online platform, IFEX developed a digital wall that allowed supporters to take action via Twitter using the hashtags #AmpatuanMassacre and #EndImpunity. As a result, more than 2,300 tweets were sent by about 1,400 different users during the week of action.
The global impact of this campaign was demonstrated on 23 November. On that date, the majority of traffic to IFEX's campaign site came from individuals in Mexico, a country far from the Philippines, but one which shares the problems of impunity for crimes against journalists.
The Philippine government's reaction
As a result of local and international pressure that has been building throughout 2014, the Philippine government could not ignore this significant anniversary. On 23 November the Presidential Office, Chief Justice Sereno of the Supreme Court of Justice, and the Justice Secretary spoke publicly about the beleaguered Ampatuan Massacre trial. While Sereno maintained that the Philippine Supreme Court has “done its part”, citing the sheer size of the trial as a general impediment to the proceedings, President Aquino vowed to convict at least one suspect by the end of his term in 2016.
Following the substantial attention this campaign received around the world, the IFEX network will keep a careful watch on the trial's progress in 2015, while continuing to support CMFR's sustained efforts to lobby for proper justice on the broader scale. On 5 December 2014, IFEX sent an urgent official statement to the Philippine government, citing the global participation in this year's campaign and highlighting the continued need for legislative advancements to better address and reduce impunity in the country.
We will continue to ensure the world does not forget this terrible massacre.
Did you find this article interesting? There is more!
Make sure to consult the following short pieces to get the broad picture about this year's impunity campaign:
- The inaugural UN International Day to End Impunity was acknowledged on 2 November. See an overview of encouraging responses we got from governments around the world.
- For the big picture of how IFEX members have lobbied their governments during the campaign, and what other activities they organised, check out this Storify.
- What's next? IFEX is looking ahead for the years to come and will identify ways for the network to keep advancing the global fight against impunity.