According to the 2017 Global Impunity Index released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) yesterday, the Philippines is one of 12 countries that have the highest impunity in the killing of journalists. File

Impunity index: Phl 5th worst
Artemio Dumlao (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines ranked fifth among countries with the highest record of impunity in the killing of journalists over the last decade, a New York-based press freedom watchdog said.

According to the 2017 Global Impunity Index released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) yesterday, the Philippines is one of 12 countries that have the highest impunity in the killing of journalists.

This is based on the number of unsolved murders that CPJ analyzed in each country from Sept. 1, 2007 to Aug. 31, 2017.

Only countries with five or more unsolved murder cases over the study period are included in the index – a threshold that 12 countries met this year, compared with 13 last year.

This year Somalia ranked first, followed by Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and India.

‘Phl officials getting away with murder’

In the case of the Philippines, the CPJ cited at least 42 Filipino journalists killed with complete impunity in past decade. It blamed government officials whom the CPJ said are “getting away with murder.”

The press freedom watchdog also found that Filipino journalists covering politics, corruption, business and crime outside the capital are those targeted for murder.

In October 2016, President Duterte formed the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), which includes a team of investigators and prosecutors for the speedy investigation of cases of killings of journalists.

But the CPJ noted that while PTFoMS announced probe into several cases of murder, no convictions were achieved.

The CPJ also cited the murder of radio broadcaster Jun Pala in 2003, which was allegedly ordered by President Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City.

Duterte has denied any link to Pala’s murder.

The CPJ also cited the Maguindanao massacre in 2009 where three suspects were acquitted out of dozens of suspects last July on grounds of insufficient evidence.

“Justice has not advanced for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre victims, among them 32 journalists and media workers,” the press freedom watchdog said.

PTFoMS chief Undersecretary Joel Egco, a former journalist, promised that the task force would protect journalists.

“We will continue to fulfill our mandate of ensuring the protection of the life, liberty and assure the security of all media workers in the Philippines,” he said. “Being in the fifth slot may seem to be a marked improvement from our past rank as second, but we must not put our guard down and be complacent.”

“For as long as there is one journalist in danger, we will continue to exist,” he added.

The CPJ noted that while impunity thrives in conflict environments, journalists working in democracies are also murdered in high numbers.

“Impunity is a chokehold on society’s free flow of information. When a single journalist is killed without justice, the message to all journalists is either watch what you say or watch your back,” Elisabeth Witchel, author of the CPJ report, said.

“States on this list must not tolerate impunity year after year but actively take measures to address their failures of justice,” she added.

The United Nations has adopted five resolutions encouraging states to enact justice, and this year marks the fifth anniversary of the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

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