Australian journalists have a lot to be thankful for. They live in a relatively safe and free environment. The violence that they will, at most, get will probably be a bashing from their news subject. And yet the government will protect them even if they run after government personalities, not for witch-hunting, but to deliver information on the politician’s performance to the public.
In the Philippines, it’s a different story. As a journo-friend puts it, the pay is appalling and working condition is not enticing and yet a few dare to take on the job that most people would likely avoid. Last 23 November, murderers, thugs and rapist sealed the Philippines’ ranking as the most dangerous place for journalists in the world. Around 30 journalists among with lawyers and common citizens were brutally murdered while some were raped. It did not help that majority of the victims were journalists. The slow action from the government became clear as the primary suspect tagged in the carnage was one of the greatest allies of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.
In light of these events, Philippine media outfits and journalists formed the November 23 Movement and released the following statement:
A Challenge of Conscience
The brutal, indiscriminate mass murder on Monday in Ampatuan town, in Maguindanao province, raises the ultimate challenge of conscience. It carries the culture of impunity at work in this country to such levels of horror that, if it remains unpunished for long, can send the nation into an inexorable descent into absolute dehumanization.
The crime thus calls for swift justice, which can only be achieved through a credible and independent process, which in turn can only be achieved without the hand of this government – a government justly mistrusted generally and openly friendly precisely to the very members of the clan accused in the massacre.
We, ourselves colleagues of the more than a score journalists who were killed, demand the following:
One, the creation of a commission outside the government to investigate the crime;
Two, the arrest and prosecution of all the people involved in it in any way, as murderers themselves or their protectors;
Three, the formation of a special court to try the case;
Four, fully guaranteed protection for the witnesses;
Five, the disarming and dismantling of all private armies, such as those evidently employed in the massacre.
Six, the enlistment of persons of unquestioned probity in the whole process;
And finally, the resignation of the government if it fails to deliver such basic satisfaction – indeed, the very same government that has encouraged, by partisanship and conspiracy, the culture of impunity of which the massacre has been the most abominable manifestation.
Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD)
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)
Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ)
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)
Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI)
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project (PHRRP)
Philippine Press Institute (PPI)
Now, let’s just hope that this will not fall on deaf ears. (Thanks to Tonyo Cruz for the heads-up)