Press freedom bleak under Aquino's watch - NUJP

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013


ON THE eve of the 44th month since the Ampatuan massacre, the state of press freedom has not improved at all under President Benigno Aquino III’s watch, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement.

The past years saw the passing of repressive laws such as the Cybercrime Prevention Act, while he reneged on one of his key promises — to enact the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

In his longest State of the Nation (Sona), Aquino didn’t mention the FOI bill, resolutions on impunity and human rights abuses targeting political activists and environment advocates.

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“He stood before the Filipino people boasting of his accomplishments and plans, journalists who report the true state of the nation everyday continue to fall victim to attacks and killings."

Worse, journalists continue to be killed with impunity,” NUJP’s statement read.

15 murdered

In fact, 15 journalists suffered the ultimate censorship – murder – in the first three years of Aquino’s presidency, four more than the 11 cases documented in the first three years of his late mother, Corazon Aquino.

Only 10 of 155 cases of media killings–one every two years and three months–have seen convictions, and these only of those who pulled the triggers, not a single one of those who ordered the murders.

Of the cases where the alleged masterminds have actually been identified and charged, not a single one has been arrested yet.

"The most brazen among these cases–the massacre that killed 32 of our colleagues on Nov. 23, 2009–is currently locked in a limbo of motions and bail hearings," the statement further read.

Speedier resolution

“We demand from the current Aquino administration a speedier resolution of the Ampatuan massacre case and all other pending cases of journalist killings in the country. We challenge Aquino to back his words with action by enacting the Freedom of Information Act and repealing the Cybercrime Prevention Act to fulfill his promises of free expression, respect for our rights and transparent governance.”

The NUJP urged the people to remember the Ampatuan Massacre, and all other cases of murder and assault against people in the media.

“For every attack against a journalist is an attempt to mute the people’s voice, and a blow to their right to know.”

Aquino sends wrong message

James Ross, the legal and policy director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said they are dismayed that Aquino chose not to talk about the continuing culture of impunity in the Philippines.

“We are disappointed that he did not take the opportunity to communicate to the military and police that they will be held accountable for human rights violations. President Aquino’s failure to denounce abuses against outspoken activists, environmentalists, clergy and journalists sends the wrong message to abusive security forces and corrupt politicians,” Ross said in a statement sent to this paper.

The HRW in its letter addressed to Aquino outlined specific measures that Aquino should have addressed in the State of the Nation speech, including: ending impunity for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances by prosecuting state security forces implicated in human rights violations; prosecuting officials implicated in “death squad” killings in Davao City and other cities’ stopping abuses in mining areas; disbanding local militias and paramilitary forces, and rescinding Executive Order 546, which allows politicians to arm “private armies.” (Grace Cantal-Albasin)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 23, 2013.

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