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IFJ demands investigation into threats against safety office staff

(IFJ/IFEX) - October 13, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urgently calls on authorities in the Philippines to act immediately to fully investigate threats made against staff working at a safety office in the southern Philippines run by an IFJ affiliate.

"The IFJ demands the Government of the Philippines ensure local authorities in Mindanao investigate the source of vicious threats made against staff of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and take prompt steps to ensure they do not come to harm," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Two threatening messages were sent last week to staff of the NUJP Mindanao Safety Office in Cagayan de Oro, which is supported by IFJ Asia-Pacific.

The NUJP reported the messages were received via email from Alfred Leron. The first message was sent on October 7, the second on October 9. The emails threaten physical harm if staff member Jigger Jerusalem does not leave Cagayan de Oro.

Jerusalem is also a freelance reporter and writes for the local Mindanao Gold Star Daily, the national Philippine Star and Ucan News. He has worked for the safety office since June.

Jerusalem said that while he did not know an Alfred Leron, or the reason for the threat, he has reported on some sensitive stories.

He wrote news reports about Herbert Dumaguing and three other journalists whose reporting on national elections in Camiguin in May resulted in them being assaulted, allegedly by supporters of Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo.

In August 2009, he also wrote about the case of an American expatriate and his Filipino wife whose fishing boat was illegally seized and destroyed by the combined forces of the Philippines Navy and some city government personnel of Gingoog, northern Mindanao.

The messages to Jerusalem threaten physical harm and note his home address. "If you value your life, I don't want to see your face here in Cagayan," the first threat reads. "Choose, brod, which part of your body, hands or feet, you want cut off. You don't know who you are up against, so better stop . . . Start counting the days beginning today."

The second threat echoed the sentiments. "Regret always comes at the end. Think of the others. Have you counted the days yet? Don't wait for that time to come. It's up to you to decide if you want to wait for something to happen."

The IFJ is extremely concerned for the welfare of Jigger, whose work at the safety office supports defending Mindanao media personnel against threats and attacks.

The safety office began operations in April to monitor violations of media rights in Mindanao, where the rising number of attacks and murders of media personnel includes the murder of 32 journalists and media workers among 58 people massacred in Maguindanao last November.

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