PH media free but still at risk for ‘deadly reprisals’
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may have one of the world’s freest press but its journalists will continue to be at risk until the government can hold accountable every killer of media personalities in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, April 30.
Carlos Conde, the Philippines researcher for HRW Asia division, made the comment in a post on the HRW website two days after a US journalist raised the issue to President Benigno Aquino III.
During the joint press conference of Aquino and US President Barack Obama in Malacañang on Monday, Ed Henry of Fox News asked Aquino about the problem of media killings in the Philippines, and what he was doing to address it. The President gave an assurance that his administration is dealing with the problem.
He also said, “May we just state for the record that even when it comes to journalists, it is not a policy of this state to silence critics. All you have to do will be to turn on the TV, the radio or look at any newspaper to find an abundance of criticism."
To this, Conde said: “The problem? Although Filipino journalists do not face state censorship, reporters who take on sensitive topics such as government corruption and organized crime often risk deadly reprisals by local politicians with ‘private armies,’ corrupt police officers, and criminal syndicates.”
He said that while the Philippines enjoys a reputation “as a regional bastion of a free media unhobbled by official censorship, journalism is an increasingly deadly line of work.”
Conde said that 12 journalists were murdered in the Philippines in 2013, the highest number since Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010 – bringing the total to 23 in Aquino’s first 40 months in office.
He also cited the 2014 impunity index of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which ranks the Philippines as the world’s third most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq and Somalia.
Conde said Aquino’s response of ongoing investigations of cases and dismissing some of them as not work-related – “dodges the inconvenient truth that police have failed to fully investigate the majority of these cases and that the majority of suspects – many of of them power local government officials – remain at large.”
“Until President Aquino addresses his government’s glaring failure to hold these killers to account, journalists in the Philippines will continue to fear for their lives,” he said. – Rappler.com