21 May 2009
The following is a press statement from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines:
The inclusion of anyone in the so-called “Order of Battle” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has not only been threatening. It has also time and again proven fatal for many political activists. The abolition of “OBs” which include the names of legal and unarmed political activists is among the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, precisely because inclusion in them has too often led to the assassination of the person listed.
The inclusion of the name of journalist Carlos Conde—a 15-year media practitioner who currently writes for the “New York Times” and the “International Herald Tribune” and who was formerly secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)—in the “Order of Battle” of a 2007 Armed Forces document must thus be regarded as threatening.
Given its traditions of secrecy, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has denied authorship of the document, and would naturally refuse to answer questions on whether a 2009 version of it exists. But such denials, as the escalation of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) in the last four years has shown, are as sinister as they’re meaningless, since, in a number of cases, the denials have not prevented EJKs. Under these circumstances journalists’ and media groups have no other recourse but to assume the worst—i.e., that Mr. Conde’s life is in danger.
The AFP document accurately lists Mr. Conde as a former officer of the NUJP, but claims that he is being “targeted” for influence or organizing by the Communist Party of the Philippines, which by itself justifies neither his inclusion in the list nor the threat implied in it. In addition, however, the inclusion of Mr. Conde in that “OB” is troubling in the context of the continuing killing of journalists.
The harassments, threats and other assaults on critical and independent journalists and media organizations already constitute a pattern of government intimidation that has eroded free expression and press freedom in the Philippines.
While the consensus is that the killing of journalists cannot be blamed on government except as a result of its inefficiency and indifference, the case of Mr. Conde suggests that journalists and media groups may have to rethink that assessment. Are journalists being included in so-called “Obs” to justify attacks on their persons as well as on the freedom the Constitution guarantees their profession?
CMFR (http://cmfr.com.ph/) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.