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Government should pass FOI law, end impunity, say IFEX members

Under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's nine-year rule, 74 journalists were killed, says CMFR
Under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's nine-year rule, 74 journalists were killed, says CMFR

CMFR

Before the Philippine leadership steps down in just a few weeks, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), along with 30 other IFEX members, is demanding that it make one last "crucial" move: to finally put the Freedom of Information Act into law. Meanwhile, on the sixth anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, Manila's Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is appealing to the President-Elect to tackle the longstanding issue of impunity.

For years, SEAPA and other civil society organisations have pressed for a freedom of information law, which would give Filipinos access to public records and documents. In the run up to the recent elections, the Congress came close to passing the bill - the House of Representatives needed to ratify it one last time before sending it to the President. But they went into recess to prepare for the elections.

"We view the adoption of legislation giving effect to the right to information as fundamental to the respect of all human rights, as well as to democracy," says a letter from the IFEX members to outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Senate and the House. The members are pressing for the bill to be taken up again on 31 May, when Congress resumes session.

Should the bill be passed, it would "not only benefit Filipinos but will also provide direction and momentum to the whole Southeast Asia region," says SEAPA, where only Thailand and Indonesia have right to information laws.

The demand comes at a time that the Philippines is commemorating the six-month anniversary of Maguindanao, when 58 people were killed, including 32 journalists and media workers, in a brutal election-related massacre.

Despite the widespread attention given to the massacre, the principal suspects have not yet been convicted and there are still some suspects at large.

CMFR is asking the new administration, under President-Elect Benigno Aquino, to commit itself to "take the necessary steps to shift government policy from the dire neglect and indifference that has allowed so many journalist killings to go unpunished."

Arroyo consistently failed to adequately address the killing of journalists and media workers, as the number of victims - 74 - spiked dramatically during her nine-year watch, says CMFR.

"A presidential statement will be heard by advocates of press freedom and media defence activists around the world as a signal that under a new leadership, the culture of impunity in the Philippines may come to an end," says CMFR.

Join CMFR's petition
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Related stories on ifex.org
  • Support call for state policy to end impunity

    CMFR calls on the future president to commit to shifting government policy from the neglect and indifference that has allowed so many journalist killings to go unpunished.



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