Under President Benigno Aquino III’s watch, 31 journalists have been murdered, bringing the total since 1986 to 171.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – In light of the low ranking of the Philippines in the recent World Press Freedom Index, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called on the next president to address decisively media killings.
In the 2016 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines ranked 138th out of 180 countries, with a score of 44.6 points, enough to be categorized in the Press Freedom map as “bad.”
The NUJP said it is saddened but not at all surprised at the country’s low ranking.
The RSF noted that “media killings in the Philippines usually go unpunished” and that, in such a climate of fear, “journalists succumb to self-censorship.”
The RSF used several indicators to assess the level of press freedom in each country, including abuses and violence, media independence, transparency, legislative framework.
The NUJP said that like other administrations before it, the Aquino government has not taken any step to end the killings of journalists.
The NUJP said that recommendations put forward by media watchdogs such as the formation of quick reaction teams and the strengthening of the Witness Protection Program, among others, have been largely ignored.
“In fact, Mr. Aquino has personally displayed apathy toward attacks and threats against journalists and has time and again shown outright hostility toward a critical press,” the group said.
Under President Benigno Aquino III’s watch, the group said 31 journalists have been murdered, bringing the total since 1986 to 171. Nine others have survived attempts on their lives and 37 more received death threats.
The NUJP lamented that only a handful of gunmen have been convicted and no mastermind. It further stated that while there has been some progress in the case of murdered Palawan broadcaster Gerry Ortega, with the alleged masterminds facing trial and, hopefully, conviction, this is mostly because of the efforts of the Ortega family and media organizations.
“Even the so-called super body composed of several government agencies has failed to solve media killings,” the group said.
The group also expressed disappointment with the slow-paced Ampatuan trial. After more than six years, more than 70 suspects remain at large. One of the primary suspects, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, was ordered released on March 9 after posting P11.6-milllion bail bond. Sixteen other accused police officers were also granted bail.
The NUJP challenged whoever wins the May 9 elections to decisively address impunity, particularly by undertaking meaningful reforms that would pave the way for the resolution of media killings and an end to the bloodshed, and push for legislation that would guarantee freedom of information and the exercise of freedom of the press, in general.