‘Recent journalist killings raise fears that climate of impunity may endure under Marcos Jr.’

Member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) light candles as countdown to the tenth year of the Ampatuan Massacre, Jan. 23, 2019 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)


MANILA – Under a Marcos Jr. administration, a New York-based media watchdog said that the climate of impunity may continue in the Philippines, following the recent killings of two journalists.

In its report, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that the new administration “brought
hope of a shift” from former President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks against Filipino journalists. However, recent murders of radio journalists Percival Mabasa, a vocal critic of Duterte and Marcos Jr., and Reynaldo Blanco, who reported on local politics and corruption, raised fears that the climate of violence and impunity will endure.

This year, the Philippines ranked seventh in CPJ’s Global Impunity Index as they revisited unresolved journalist killings in relation to the country’s population in the past 10 years.

The country has been in the index for the last 15 years.

Globally, the CPJ said they documented “complete impunity” in nearly 80 percent or 206 out of the 263 journalist killings in the last 10 years. This, they said, means that no one has been convicted in connection with the crime.


Apart from the killings, the first months of the Marcos Jr. administration were marked with other cases curtailing press freedom, including the filing of cyberlibel and libel cases, surveillance and harassment, death threat, and online harassment, to name a few, per documentation of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

The NUJP also documented red-tagging of journalists under the Marcos Jr. administration, including its secretary general and Bulatlat managing editor Ronalyn Olea.

In a forum dubbed “Alerto Tayo! Safety for Media and Human Rights Workers” last week, Col. Medel Aguilar, acting spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that it is not a government policy to red-tag journalists, and that the term red-tagging came from “the other side.”

Aguilar also said that they are only publishing the “accounts” of former rebels to sway the public away from infiltration of communist rebels.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers Secretary General Josalee Deinla, who was also in the forum, belied claims that red-tagging does not pose dangers to journalists and human rights defenders, saying that that it has put their lives on the line and has “resulted in the shrinking of democratic spaces in the Philippines.”

“This is the reality of what is happening on the ground. [Red-tagging] has resulted in physical harm to some of our members. We have lost five lawyers for the past 15 years who have been red-tagged before they were killed,” she said.

Fighting back

In the Alerto Tayo forum, various journalist groups shared their initiatives to promote journalist safety as part of the culmination of the Safeguarding Journalists and Human Rights in the Philippines Project, which was implemented by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, in partnership with the International Media Support and the European Union.

Among these include “Alerto” chat groups for quick alerts on threats and attacks against journalists, and their critical engagement with state forces and other stakeholders who also have the same advocacy. (RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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