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Mindanao massacre survivor reports intimidation

(IFJ/IFEX) - November 1, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned for the safety of a journalist who narrowly escaped the massacre of at least 58 people in Mindanao in the southern Philippines last November, after he reported being watched and photographed by unidentified men.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, reported that Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent Aquiles Zonio told colleagues he saw two unidentified men loitering and taking photographs outside his home in General Santos City, Mindanao, for three successive days from October 24.

"The IFJ is deeply worried that any journalist should feel intimidated, and notes particular concern for Zonio's welfare and all media personnel working in Mindanao after the atrocity in Maguindanao, Mindanao, last year," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Zonio reported in a text message: "Last Sunday, two men riding on a motorcycle stopped in front of our house at around 5pm and looked like they were taking pictures of me while I was doing the laundry. Then last night (Monday) at around 9pm, then again tonight (Tuesday) at 8pm."

Zonio was one of three media personnel who opted not to join a convoy of media and other vehicles before it was ambushed in Maguindanao last November. At least 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, were murdered in the massacre that followed.

Zonio said the unidentified men's threatening behaviour may be due to his reporting on illegal mining and logging activities, or the massacre.

Several journalists in central Mindanao have received threats due to their coverage of the massacre, which will be commemorated in national and international events to mark the one-year anniversary this November 23.

The prime suspect, Andal Ampatuan Jr, is charged with multiple counts of murder, along with 195 other suspects who are mostly police officers and militia men.

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with the NUJP reporting 140 media workers killed since 1986.

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