Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 13 May 5 - 11, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
for Benjaline `Beng' Hernandez
Addressing the 58th session of
the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Reporters Without Borders
(Reporters sans frontières) drew the Assembly's attention to the assassination
on 5 April 2002 in the province of Cotabato (Island of Mindanao) of Benjaline
"Beng" Hernandez, killed by members of the Philippines military.
Reporters Without Borders, which
has special consultative status with the UN, stated, "Barely two weeks ago,
Benjaline Hernandez, a journalist and human rights activist, was murdered while
investigating how the peace process was being implemented in Cotabato province,
on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The 22-year-old journalist and three local
people were killed by Philippine army soldiers. After wounding them, they were
shot dead at close range. Despite the revelation of this by the autopsy and the
preliminary investigation, insist the four were "rebels". The
Hernandez case is both dramatic and a good example. Dramatic because the
security forces, who are supposed to protect civilians, are in many countries
the main enemies of human rights campaigners. And a good example because the
authorities had no hesitation in suggesting these activists were enemies.
Journalists are treated as rebels simply because they expose the abuses of the
Reporters Without Borders urged
the Secretary-General's special representative on human rights' defenders to
follow the investigation into the death of Benjaline Hernandez closely. Military
officials and the governor of Cotabato continue to claim that Benjaline
Hernandez and her three companions were rebels, killed during a skirmish.
According to the governor, Emmanuel Day, the young journalist's diary and notes
indicate that she was a member of the New People's Army (NPA), which operates in
this area of the Arakan valley. However, the autopsy, carried out by the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), has already shown that the journalist
and her companions were initially wounded and then killed at point-blank range.
Benjaline Hernandez's family and colleagues categorically deny that she was an
NPA rebel, and assert that the perpetrators of this crime are soldiers of the
Philippine army's 12th Special Forces Company and the 7th Airborne Battalion led
by Sgt Antonio Torella.
Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world, as well as the right to inform the public and to be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Without Borders has nine national sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Tokyo and Washington and more than a hundred correspondents worldwide.