BY ARTEMIO A. DUMLAO
Fight back! This was the call of the group National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), one of the country’s biggest groups of journalists, as it lamented government’s “lameduck” effort to curb the killings of journalists.
This was the call of the group National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), one of the country’s biggest groups of journalists, as it lamented government’s “lameduck” effort to curb the killings of journalists.
“Today, we say enough is enough. We have condemned enough. We have issued statements enough. We have marched in the streets and called government’s attention enough,” said Jose Torres Jr., director and spokesperson of the NUJP.
Calling journalists in the country to fight back by using the journalist profession, pens, cameras and microphones as weapons, Torres said: “Let us cease to be just observers and recorders to the death of democracy.”
Torres made the strongly-worded statement after Palawan broadcaster Fernando “Dong” Batul was murdered Monday morning on his way to anchor his regular Bastonero program on DYPR in Puerto Princesa. Batul’s killing came after photojournalist Albert
Orsolino was gunned down in Caloocan City on May 16 and San Pablo City (Laguna) broadcaster Iring Maranan was mauled just hours after by Laguna Councilor Edgardo Adajar in full view of 100 people, including other journalists.
“It is clear that the survival of democracy now rests solely in our hands,” Torres said, “as the death toll of Filipino journalists has already far outstripped the 34 claimed by the 14-year Marcos dictatorship.”
“We no longer see how this administration can claim to preside over a society that claims to be the freest in this part of the world,” he further said.
“When crimes against journalists remain unpunished, the future of a country is endangered and organized crime or corruption becomes the main beneficiaries of
this impunity,” the NUJP official said. He called on “the people, the public, the audiences we serve, to stand with us. For the freedom of the press we struggle to uphold is not ours alone but the logical extension of the people’s right to free expression and to know from which all other rights emanate.”
“For not only has this administration’s inaction emboldened those who would impose on us the ultimate form of censorship – death – it has actually attempted to muzzle the independent Philippine press,” Torres added.
He went on to cite that even the Philippine National Police (PNP) has acknowledged that, of the 79 killings of journalists since 1986, only five cases have been resolved by the courts.
“And we stress that, while the killers in these cases may have been convicted, not a single mastermind has ever been brought to justice,” Torres added. Not to mention the fact that, in many cases, the killings may be traced to agents of state security, he said.
What we are getting, Torres lamented, are “empty promises, inutile task forces, and fatuous claims by the likes of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales that ‘forces out to destabilize’ the government are behind our colleagues’ deaths and those of hundreds of activists.”
In its obsession with national security and its own survival, this administration has failed to protect the lives and respect the rights of the Filipino people, journalists included, and consequently failed to defend democracy, he claimed. “We reject and condemn such facile attempts to trivialize our colleagues’ deaths and make them another pawn in the political games this government plays,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)