Philippines now seen as most dangerous place for journalists

by Alcuin Papa, Philippine Daily Inquirer

With the deaths of at least 12 journalists in Monday’s massacre in Maguindanao, the Philippines has earned the dubious distinction as the world’s most dangerous place for journalists to work, according to an international media watchdog.

In a statement on its website, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said the country effectively supplanted Iraq, where an armed conflict has been raging, as the most dangerous place for journalists.

The IFJ also scored the Arroyo government for allowing and failing to stop a “culture of impunity” directed towards journalists in recent years.

“Under the current government, the Philippines has become the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. At least 74 journalists have been killed during its eight-year tenure, yet the (Arroyo) government has not acted to end the culture of impunity. At last count, only four convictions had been secured,” the group said.

Before the massacre, the New York-based monitor Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked the Philippines as the fourth deadliest country for journalists in terms of reporters’ deaths for 2009. In recent years, the Philippines got as far as the second most dangerous place behind Iraq.

However, Monday’s killings saw the Philippines leapfrog Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan into the top spot.

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White also said the Arroyo administration “must make a clear and unequivocal commitment to an immediate, independent and effective inquiry into this atrocity,” said.

“With elections due in six months time the authorities must act now to guarantee the safety of journalists throughout the country,” White said.

He also said the IFJ “is determined to keep an international focus on this crisis. It is a traumatic and horrifying incident that means all journalists must now take even greater care.”

The IFJ has been considering next steps and would support plans by the International News Safety Institute to organize urgent safety training for local journalists, the group said.

“We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and colleagues of all those killed in Maguindanao,” said White.

The IFJ also pledged its full support to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in an urgent campaign on news safety.

The NUJP is sending an immediate mission to Maguindano to investigate the circumstances around the killings, to provide immediate support to the families of the victims, and to assess the security failings and safety needs for the region. “The IFJ has made available its International Safety Fund to provide humanitarian support.”

article originally published at Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey