Killing of journalists continuing
Eighteen journalists have been killed for their work in the three years of the Aquino administration. There were five in the last three months. The administration record is still below that of the Arroyo regime (80 killings over a nine-year period). But the number of journalists slain in this administration has surpassed those of the Ramos (11 over six years, or an average of two per year) and Estrada administrations (six over three years, or two per year).
The escalation of the number of killings is disturbing enough. But just as troubling is the increase in and variety of cases of harassment of journalists.
Since 2012, death threats and physical attacks as well as attempts on the lives of journalists have visibly risen. There were 62 such incidents of intimidation in 2013 alone.
Some practitioners have been accused of using the press for personal and other purposes. Abuse of the freedom protected by the Constitution and unprofessional and unethical conduct do occur, but violence is hardly the correct response to journalistic and media lapses; criticism and exposure, as well as bringing them to the attention of the mechanisms of media and press self-regulation, are.
The latter is the response of those who have such legitimate complaints against the media as bias, inaccuracy, and lack of fairness. Criticism, discussion, and debate as means of arriving at corrective measures are after all the means of redress in a democracy.
But democracy is hardly the concern of those who mastermind and carry out the killings, physical attacks and death threats as a first response against journalists. These are the individuals and groups involved in the corruption and criminality most of those killed were exposing through their reports, columns and analyses.
Attacks on journalists are also attacks on the press as a pillar of democracy. The killings damage the capacity of the press to help create the enlightened public crucial to a democratic society. The violence against journalists is as much an expression of the culture of violence as the extrajudicial killings that have claimed the lives of lawyers and judges, local officials, political activists, nuns and priests, and those other sectors and individuals exposing corruption,
defending human rights, and protecting the environment, among other advocacies.
The culture of impunity that fosters the culture of violence is deeply destructive of our development, of our country, and of our people. But it also inflicts damage on the Aquino administration because it erodes the hopes its rise to power awakened.
No society can survive if its citizens are perennially under siege from the forces of violence. The administration has to address this problem as one of its most vital tasks. Its gains in the struggle to address violence and impunity will result in the greater safety and security of all citizens.
But citizens themselves, as they are demonstrating in the current campaign against corruption, must remember that corruption results from the same culture of impunity that allows the guilty to go free. The advocacies against corruption and against violence are thus joined in the common struggle to end impunity.
—CENTER FOR MEDIA FREEDOM
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