Several media, media advocacy organizations and journalism professors and students led by the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) are urging President Benigno Aquino III to take concrete steps to stop human rights violations and the continuing killing and harassment of journalists and political activists.
The Manila newspaper “BusinessWorld”, students and professors of the University of the Philippines, the organization of editors of student newspapers, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines joined FFFJ in reminding the Aquino administration of its promise last August 2010 to take several steps to stop the killings.
Less than a year after Aquino’s assuming office, six journalists, three in the line of duty, have been killed. The first killing happened less than two weeks after President Benigno Aquino III was sworn into office. On 9 July 2010, a gunman riding tandem on a motorcycle shot broadcaster Miguel Belen in Camarines Sur. Belen died 22 days after the shooting.
In an open letter dated 17 April 2011, the media groups and journalism and communication professors and students asked the president “to show political will to put an end to impunity and to launch the presidential initiatives needed to begin the process of change.”
“Mr. President, what is needed is concrete action that will turn the page in the public mind: action that will send a signal that the executive will do all that is necessary and within its power to counter impunity,” the letter read.
They reminded the president of his promise of change, including the promise to put an end to injustice and impunity. “You were elected,” they said, “ because the people were hungry for change, and you thwart that belief in the possibility of change at risk of the people’s loss of faith in the capacity of the system to deliver justice.”
“(T)he failure to prosecute the killers of journalists as well as those of political activists…is sending the dangerous signal that, as in the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the killings can continue during your watch without the perpetrators being punished. That failure will confirm that impunity will continue to reign and those with the means will not stop the use of violence against those they wish to silence.”
The groups also reminded Aquino of the recommendations they submitted to the Aquino administration in an August 2010 meeting between the FFFJ and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and officials of the Aquino government.
The recommendations include the strengthening of the Witness Protection Program and the formation of Multi-sectoral Quick Response Teams.
The groups also asked Aquino to request the judiciary to review the present justice system, especially the rules of court, and to help speed up the pace of the Ampatuan Massacre and other trials on media killings.
Aside from FFFJ and its member-organizations, students and faculty members of the University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communication, “BusinessWorld”, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines signed the open letter.
FFFJ is a coalition of six media organizations: the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (The broadcasters’ association), the Philippine Press Institute, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the US-based Philippine News. It was founded in 2003 to assist in the prosecution of the killers of journalists and to provide humanitarian assistance to the families of slain journalists and media workers.
CMFR (http://www.cmfr-phil.org) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.