Steps to stop media killings
The Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR) welcomes the Inquirer’s calling public attention to the continuing killing of journalists and media workers in the Philippines, this time through its May 26 editorial “Stop the killings.”
As your editorial points out, the Philippine National Police’s definition of what constitutes a media killing is hardly of any help in stopping further killings. Its insistence that drivers for media organizations and disc jockeys are not journalists and hence are not included in the PNP list is, of course, also self-serving and based on a lack of understanding of how the media perform their essential tasks. Media workers like drivers and other support staff are crucial to the work journalists do, while, like other media practitioners, most disc jockeys also regularly report and comment on the news, hence their inclusion in the CMFR’s list of media people killed.
Your editorial correctly notes that the CMFR count of 24 journalists and media workers killed since President Aquino began his term in 2010—or an average of six per year—is lower than the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines’ 28. The CMFR researches each case and excludes those it has found to be unrelated to the individual’s work as a journalist/media worker. Whether 28 or 24 were killed hardly matters, however. One journalist killed is one journalist too many.
The CMFR does not include in its list four journalists killed between 2011 and 2013 because, after extensive investigation, we established that they were killed because of a business dispute, in the course of a robbery, or because of purely personal matters.
As Sen. Grace Poe has suggested, a hotline for the use of journalists and media workers under threat that would enable them to immediately contact national officials would also help stop the killings. Some local officials including the police have been implicated in several of the killings, including in the Nov. 23, 2009, Ampatuan massacre; investigating and solving the killings will require the action of national officials.
But we would also suggest that a multisectoral quick-response team be organized. In addition to PNP representatives, such a team should include media representatives, and would help secure the evidence that is often compromised when a journalist is killed, as well as immediately gather relevant information surrounding the killing.
Punishing the killers and the masterminds is the long-term means to putting an end to the killings, hence our suggestion that the rules of court, which currently contribute to interminable delays in the hearing of court cases, be reformed. The reforms may not retroactively apply to the Ampatuan massacre trial, but could accelerate the pace of future trials in order to demonstrate that the killing of journalists and anyone else will not go unpunished.
For additional information, the public can access: http://www.cmfr-phil.org/flagship-programs/freedom-watch/.
—MELINDA QUINTOS DE JESUS,
executive director, Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility
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