(IFJ/IFEX) - 9 December 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for urgent action to provide legal support for the families of victims of the massacre in Maguindano province in Mindanao, the Philippines, on November 23.
The call comes as the preliminary report of an IFJ international mission currently in Manila raises concerns over the commitment and capacity of Philippine authorities to guarantee a full and independent prosecution of the killers of 31 journalists and media workers and at least 26 other victims of the massacre.
"The international community must heed the urgent appeal for help from journalists in the Philippines and across the world to take all necessary measures to pressure the Philippine Government into action and support the victims of this atrocity," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
The report of the mission, conducted at the request of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, further calls for urgent counselling and humanitarian support to the families of the victims, including at least 75 children who have lost a parent. In many cases the victim was the sole breadwinner for families now facing an uncertain future.
Thirdly, the report underlines the need for the protection of witnesses and a comprehensive safety program for journalists in Mindanao, as tensions rise further ahead of national elections in May 2010.
"Our Philippine colleagues have suffered not only a brutal and ruthless assault on their profession and livelihood, but also incomparable personal losses," said Mike Dobbie, an IFJ representative on the mission.
"Today we pay tribute to their extraordinary courage and determination to tell the world their story and, in the face of enormous personal risks, to make sure the perpetrators are brought to justice."
The mission report has been produced following four intensive days of meetings with the families of those killed, witnesses, the local media community, lawyers and government officials in Manila and General Santos City.
The mission team comprises representatives from leading journalists' rights and press freedom organisations including the IFJ, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Indonesia's Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Australia's Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the International News Safety Institute (INSI), International Media Support (IMS), the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI) and Union Network International (UNI).
The mission is an expression of global solidarity with journalist colleagues in the Philippines. It is being hosted by the NUJP, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ).
"This massacre, coming at the very beginning of the 2010 election process, has dealt a cruel blow to democracy and free media in the Philippines," the report said.
IFJ affiliates and partners around the world are joining an International Day of Solidarity today, December 9, to pressure their home governments and the Government of the Philippines to assure justice for the victims of November 23 and to end to the long-running culture of impunity for the murders of journalists in the Philippines.
Click here to download the IFJ International Solidarity Mission preliminary report:
international_solidarity_mission.pdf (42 KB)