“We sincerely hope you will break this chain of apathy that continues to strengthen the culture of impunity in the country, so that our fallen colleagues and all other victims of crimes will finally begin to get justice.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Journalists and press freedom advocates called on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to curb impunity that perpetuates media killings.
On June 2, Duterte said there are three types of journalists in the country: the crusaders telling the truth; the mouthpiece of vested interests; and the low-life who accept money from illegal sources. He said he would not apologize for saying that some journalists were killed because they were corrupt.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) swiped at Duterte’s “sweeping generalization” and reiterated that “nothing, not corruption, and certainly not truth-telling, can ever justify murder.”
“We agree that it is not within your powers to provide each and every one of us security, nor did it ever occur to us to ask you to. But what we do expect, and what each and every Filipino deserves, is that government cares enough to build a social atmosphere that ensures that murder is not resorted to as a means to redress grievance,” the NUJP said. “And if, unfortunately, it does happen, this should not go unpunished.”
The group said that impunity is something that past administrations failed or simply did not care to address.
Under the Aquino administration, 32 journalists have been killed in line of duty. Since the so-called restoration of democracy, 172 journalists have been gunned down. Not one among the masterminds has been convicted so far.
“We sincerely hope you will break this chain of apathy that continues to strengthen the culture of impunity in the country, so that our fallen colleagues and all other victims of crimes will finally begin to get justice,” the NUJP said.
In a separate statement, Altermidya, a national network of alternative media outfits in the country, also challenged the incoming Duterte government “to rise above the Aquino and other administrations that have either ignored or minimized the impact on Philippine society and governance of the killing of journalists and that have done little or nothing to stop the killings.”
“Journalists are not the enemies of change Duterte has promised–it is the killers of journalists who kill to conceal corruption and criminality who are. It is they he must condemn, and, through the Department of Justice, prosecute and punish,” Altermidya said.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Luis Teodoro, deputy executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), said that Duterte might be referring to particular cases but his statement “might be misinterpreted” as a justification for killing journalists.
Still, Teodoro welcomed Duterte’s earlier statement that he would form a task force to look into the media killings.
Teodoro said the task force should include representatives from the media. He said the composition of the task force is important in ensuring justice, noting that in some cases of media killings, police forces were involved.
Teodoro said media groups had put forward recommendations to the Aquino administration as early as 2010 but no concrete steps were taken. Among these, he said, is for the executive to encourage the judiciary to speed up the judicial process in the Ampatuan massacre case and to enhance the capacity of the police to investigate.
The NUJP said Duterte could spruce up the agencies doing investigative and prosecutorial roles, which are key in the search for justice.
The NUJP also challenged Duterte to address “the often onerous working conditions that can push the desperate and the weak towards becoming, as you say, “vultures.”
In particular, the group said Duterte should make good on his pledge to end contractualization, which victimizes so many journalists in major outfits, both in the national capital and the provinces. “In this way, we hope we can, together, help improve conditions for those among us whose realities make them most prone to corruption,” the group said.