Two representatives of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today unveiled in Manila its Global Impunity Index 2009 that tracks the number of journalists killed in the line of duty, with senior officials sharply criticizing President Arroyo’s government for the failure to stop and solve the murders.
This year’s report is being released in Manila to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat, a Philippine columnist who reported on corruption in the government’s agriculture department. Garcia-Esperat was gunned down in her home in front of her family in a case that has become emblematic of the struggle against impunity. Two government officials are accused of ordering her murder.
“Philippine journalists are clamoring for justice in at least two dozen unsolved cases, and they need government protection from the murderous thugs who are killing their colleagues year after year,” said Elisabeth Witchel, CPJ’s impunity campaign coordinator. “We call on the Philippine government to take the hard steps needed to gain convictions: assigning sufficient prosecutors and investigators to these cases, moving trials to safe and impartial venues, protecting witnesses, and providing high-level political backing for all of these efforts.”
CPJ’s Shawn Crispin sharply criticized the Arroyo government over the continuing and unresolved murders, and highlighted the CPJ report’s findings that makes the Philippines, a peacetime democracy, as even worse than Afghanistan, which is at the center of a global war on terror, in terms of the number of old unresolved and new killings of journalists.
“The Philippines has long been a poster child of impunity,” said Crispin, adding that the country is the highest-ranked among among so-called peacetime democracies where journalists continue to be murdered.
Clearly unimpressed by the Arroyo government’s actions vis-a-vis the killings, Crispin pointed out that “no murdered journalist has been given full justice.”.
Crispin lamented that “on the ground, lawlessness continues to allow impunity” and that there are indications that “justice cannot be achieved at the local level”, citing instances where cases involving journalists’ murders being sought to be transferred from provincial courts to tribunals in Manila and Cebu.
The CPJ said that it has recorded 24 murders of journalists for the past 10 years (1999-2008).
According to the FFFJ, 78 journalists have been killed since 1986. The NUJP meanwhile lists 100 names.
Among those who attended the launch were Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot, Inquirer columnist Conrad de Quiros, PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas, CMFR deputy executive director Luis Teodoro, NUJP board member Rowena Paraan, PPI executive director Jose Pavia and other members of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), the group which helped organize the event.