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Three killed in two weeks: Journalist safety under attack in Philippines

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 28 August 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplores the recent killing of a radio broadcaster in Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The IFJ expresses outrage over the deteriorating safety situation for media workers across the Philippines this year and calls on the government to take immediate action to end the culture of impunity and violence against the media community.

On August 27, the anchorman of Ratsada, a program in Radio Mindanao Network's DXOC, Cosme Diez Maestrado, was shot dead. The 48-year-old was shot 10 times by unidentified assailants. Maestrado, who was known for his fearless comments on air had survived an assassination attempt in November 2011.

Maestrado is the third media worker to be killed in the past two weeks in the Philippines. On August 18, Gregorio Ybanez was killed when he was shot three times in the chest and once in the arm out the front of his house. Ybanez was the president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club (DNPRC) and worked for local newspaper Bagting sa Katilingban. On August 19, Teodoro 'Tio Dodoy' Escanilla was killed in his home in Sorsogon, on Luzon Island in the central Philippines. Escanilla, a radio anchor at DZMS was also the chairman of the local Anakpawis, a political party and the spokeperson for Karapatan, a local human rights organization.

The recent killings bring the total number of media workers killed this year in the Philippines to seven. On January 8, Nerlita Ledesma was shot as she stood, waiting for a ride to work. The 48-year-old journalist for the Bataan tabloid, Abante was shot four times in the chest. On February 14, 71-year-old Maurito Lim was killed when he was shot by a lone gunman out the front of the offices of his workplace at radio station dyRD. Lim was host of the daily program Chairman Mao on Board and a noted critic of local officials linked to illegal drug trade in the city. On April 13, Melinda Magsino-Lubis, 41-year-old former correspondent with the Philippine Daily Inquirer was gunned down as she walked along the street. In 2005 she had received death threats following a report on local corruption. In June, CNN Philippines assistant cameraman, Jonathan Oldan was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Oldan had recently been assigned to cover the Department of Justice and Supreme Court beats.

The situation facing journalists in the Philippines continues to deteriorate, while in the background the trial for the Ampatuan Massacre, during which 58 people including 32 journalists were brutally killed takes place. The trial, which has been hampered by a myriad of issues has faced strong criticism as delays continue to stall justice. On August 27, chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno told reporters that the prosecution and defence would finish presenting evidence by the end of 2015, after which the judge has 90 days to present a verdict.

"It is excruciatingly slow for the victims' families. That is not debatable, it is painful, there must be closure," Sereno said.

In November 2014, the IFJ and NUJP led a mission to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre. The mission released a report, Ampatuan Massacre: Five Years On which included key recommendations for the government and media to ensure a commitment to the safety of journalists.

Mission leader Mike Dobbie said: "The culture of impunity that reigns across the Philippines, highlighted five-and-a-half yars ago by the massacre, is being allowed to run rampant by a failure of government to vigorously pursue the perpertrators of these murders.Law enforcement agencies must be given every resource to fully investigate these cases and pressure must be applied so that they results are achieved. Decades of government inertia has allowed this crisis to get out of control and the result is an ever-rising, shameful death toll."

As the Philippines heads towards national elections in May 2016, there is heightened risk of killings and attacks on the media, furthering weakening the safety situation across the country.

The IFJ said: "The situation for journalists in the Philippines continues to be a real area of concern and highlights the inaction by the government to take the situation seriously. The Philippines remains one of the deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist, and is currently the deadliest in the Asia Pacific region for 2015."

"We join our affiliate and the media communication in demanding action from the government. The culture of impunity and continued violence against journalists needs to end now."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • In the Philippines, three journalists killed in two weeks

    "The murder of three journalists in two weeks shows how the lack of progress in ending impunity has emboldened those bent on silencing the press in the Philippines," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative.

  • Deeply concerned about recent murder of journalists in Philippines
  • Columnist shot dead in Ilocos Norte

    A columnist for a local weekly newspaper was shot dead in a public market in Ilocos Norte on 4 September 2015. "Ilocos Times" columnist and businessman Steve Barriero was shot several times in front of a grocery store ... The police are looking into a possible love triangle in this case as the reason for the shooting.



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