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CPJ special report: "Under Oath, Under Threat"

In the Philippines, witnesses to journalist murders face extreme pressures and risk

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, August 19, 2009 - Journalist murders continue to go unpunished in the Philippines in large part because of witness intimidation, the Committee to Protect Journalists says in a new report. The government's witness protection program, while valuable, is underfunded and beset by numerous shortcomings, CPJ's Shawn W. Crispin writes.

CPJ's report, "Under Oath, Under Threat," spotlights the 2008 murder of radio broadcaster Denis Cuesta, who was shot while walking with colleague Robert Flores along a main road in General Santos City on the island of Mindanao. Flores came forward to identify a senior police official as one of the assassins - despite threats against him and his family. He and his family now live in a safe house with little money or freedom as the delay-plagued case slowly proceeds to trial. "I have sacrificed my family, my job, everything for justice," the 49-year-old Flores told CPJ. "When the case is over, we will have to start a new life somewhere else."

The Philippines is sixth on CPJ's 2009 Impunity Index, which ranks countries worldwide in which journalists are regularly slain and their murders go unsolved. According to CPJ research, at least 24 journalist murders have gone unsolved in the Philippines over the last decade. CPJ has also documented numerous instances in which witnesses have been threatened, assaulted, or bribed. In one of the most shocking cases - the 2002 murder of radio journalist Edgar Damalerio - two witnesses were killed before they could testify, and a third survived an assassination attempt.

Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative, traveled to General Santos City and Manila in July to research this report.

Click here to read the report
Also available online: Crispin describes the backstory in an audio report

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