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IFJ provides action plan to end impunity to newly-elected President Aquino

(IFJ/IFEX) - On 30 June 2010, IFJ wrote an open letter to President Benigno S. Aquino outlining an action plan to end impunity in the Philippines:

President Benigno S. Aquino III
Malacañang Palace
1610 J.P Laurel St.
San Miguel

RE: Journalists' Rights and Impunity in the Philippines

Dear President Aquino,

Congratulations on taking office today.

We write regarding the ongoing violations facing journalists in the Philippines on the eve of your inauguration. We are saddened to learn from our affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), of three murders of media personnel in recent weeks. The killings are especially disturbing in consideration of the 32 journalists and media personnel killed in the Ampatuan Town Massacre last November and the 140 media personnel killed in your country since 1986.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing more than 600,000 members in 125 countries, has a long and close working relationship with the media community in the Philippines, through the work of the NUJP. In the Philippines, we promote the rights of professional journalists, especially on issues of safety and press freedom. It is our view that a robust and independent media sector is essential to democracy and assurance of respect for universal human rights.

However, the long-running culture of impunity surrounding the deaths and violent assaults and intimidation of Filipino journalists pervades the Philippines, and is a significant impediment to the full realisation of these rights.

With respect, the IFJ reminds the Government of the Philippines of its obligations as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and to the 1997 Additional Protocol on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II) to ensure the protection of journalists as civilians. Article 13 of Protocol II states: "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited."

In addition, we draw your attention to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, which was adopted in 2006 and stresses the civilian status of journalists reporting in war zones and crisis areas within national borders. The resolution stipulates: ". . . that all parties to an armed conflict comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including journalists, media professionals and associated personnel."

Therefore, the Philippines Government is required by international law to remedy the current situation and redress the past injustices carried out against journalists. The recommendations that follow are based on close engagement with local organisations and the findings of an emergency mission the IFJ led in the immediate aftermath of the Ampatuan Town Massacre.

These recommendations serve as indicators which will be used by the IFJ and the NUJP, other international press freedom organisations, and the international community to assess the progress of the Government of the Philippines in meeting its responsibilities to protect journalists as civilians and to ensure justice is done for past gross abuses of the rights of media personnel.

Click here to read the remainder of the letter and the IFJ recommendations to President Aquino
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