The Philippines ranks number five on the index of unsolved media killings in the world. File

Philippines ranks 5th in unsolved media killings
Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - November 1, 2017 - 8:57am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines remains one of a dozen countries where journalists are killed and perpetrators can get away with it, according to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to CPJ's 2017 Global Impunity Index, although the Philippines dropped by one place compared to its rank in the index last year, perpetrators of killings of media workers still go unpunished in the country.

In the past decade, 42 journalists have been killed with impunity many of whom local reporters from outside the capital covering politics, corruption, business and crime, CPJ said.

Since the last index, only one murder was recorded in March 2017, the shooting of reporter Joaquin Briones.

Justice however has not advanced for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre in 2009, among them 32 journalists who were covering the filing of candidacy of a politician that would challenge the iron-clad rule of the Ampatuan family in Maguindanao.

"Three (out of dozens) of suspects were acquitted in July this year on grounds of insufficient evidence. The regional appeals court also upheld petitions for bail by Datu Sajid, a principal suspect, according to news reports," CPJ said.

Despite still being ranked as among the most dangerous places on earth for media workers, the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte has made progress, CPJ said.

Duterte formed in October 2016 the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, which has its own team of investigators and prosecutors for the speedy probe of cases of media killings.

Since its formation, the commission has announced investigations into several killings, but no convictions have been achieved so far, CPJ noted.

The media watchdog also took note of the accusations of two people that Duterte, during his time as mayor of Davao City, ordered the killing of radio broadcaster Jun Pala in 2003.

"Duterte has denied any connection to the crime," CPJ said.

Although many of the killings around the world are related to conflicts, media deaths such as those in the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and India, countries which bill themselves as democracies, have led to the regular appearance of these nations on the group's impunity index.

The group said that in these countries government officials and criminal groups went unpunished for murdering journalists in high numbers.

"Impunity thrives in conflict environments, where powerful actors often use violent intimidation to control media coverage, while weak-to-nonexistent law and order increases the likelihood of attacks," it said.

It also noted that the Philippines, India, Mexico and Nigeria, which are all on this year's impunity index, are on the governing council of the Community of Democracies, a coalition dedicated to upholding and strengthening democratic norms.

The country with the highest impunity index in the world, according to CPJ, is Somalia which is ravaged in the past decade by a prolonged civil war and an insurgency waged by al-Shabaab militants.

"The war in Syria pushed that country into the second worst spot on the index, compared with third last year. Third on this year's index is Iraq, where journalists are menaced by the militant group Islamic State and state-backed militias, among other groups," CPJ said.

The fighting between political forces in South Sudan led it to become number four on the list, CPJ said, adding that this conflict resulted in a 2015 ambush during which five journalists were killed.

In the case of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria, much of the danger facing media men and women stems from threats of violent extremist groups operating beyond the reach of authorities.

Afghanistan is not on the list this year because targeted killings of journalists have declined although security conditions remain volatile.

Mexico is number 6 on the list, followed by Pakistan, Brazil, Russia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and India.

The Impunity Index is published annually to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2.

It calculates the number of unsolved killings over a 10-year period as a percentage of each country's population. For this edition, CPJ analyzed journalist killings in every nation that took place between Sept. 1, 2007 and Aug. 31, 2017.

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