Journalists across Southeast Asia face attacks for doing their jobs — IFJ

Journalists across Southeast Asia face attacks for doing their jobs � IFJ
File photo taken during media coverage at Makati City hall.
Philstar.com, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Being targeted for doing their jobs is the biggest threat that journalists in Southeast Asia face, the International Federation of Journalists said Saturday, citing a survey conducted by its affiliate unions.

IFJ and the South East Asia Journalists Unions launched preliminary findings of the 2019 regional survey on Saturday, November 2, which is also the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

According to the survey of 1,265 journalists in the region, "one in two journalists had felt insecure in their jobs in the past year" from key threats like "random attacks by members of the general public, threats to journalists’ families or others close to them, and poor working conditions."

The survey also found that 38% of respondents felt that press freedom in their countries "had worsened or seriously declined" in the past year, with impunity in the attacks against journalits seen as a major problem. 
"Government and political leadership were the two biggest determinants of impunity for crimes against journalists, while the prevailing poor performance of the criminal and civil justice system to deal with such threats and acts of violence against journalists was a major contributing factor," IFJ said.

"Attacks on journalists are attacks on our freedom. Together with our South East Asia affiliates, today we call the authorities to take urgent action and ensure the freedom and safety of journalists and end all attempts to silence journalists," it also said.

IFJ quotes Abdul Manan, chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, as calling the findings "a brutal reflection" of the violence that journalists in the region face.

"We should not stop increasing our efforts to push the government to ensure the safety of journalists. We demand the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and end the culture of impunity not only to Indonesian government but also governments in the region, including the Philippines," Manan said.

Philippine situation

There have been at least 13 journalists killed in relation to their work since President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

This week, Benjie Caballero of Radyo ni Juan was shot in front of his house in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. He posted on his Facebook account last year that he had been receiving death threats.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security announced last Wednesday that double murder raps have been filed against three people suspected of killing Jupiter Gonzales, a 52-year-old columnist of Remate, and his companion Christopher Tiongson earlier October.

A suspect in the July 10 ambush on Kidapawan City radio commentator Eduardo Dizon surrendered also surrendered last month.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said this week that the Philippines has the most “unsolved murders of journalists in countries with [the] worst record for justice" as it released its Global Impunity Index 2019.

"The 13 countries that make up the list of the world's worst impunity offenders represent a mix of conflict-ridden regions and more stable countries where criminal groups, politicians, government officials, and other powerful actors resort to violence to silence critical and investigative reporting," the CPJ report, released Tuesday, read.

The Philippines ranked 5th on the index, where Somalia was ranked 1st. CPJ noted that the Philippines has 41 unsolved journalist killings against 30 in Mexico.

This week also saw the arrest in Bacolod City of community journalist Anne Krueger of Negros-based Paghimutad, an alternative news outfit that had been reporting on extrajudicial killings on the island. 

"That Krueger was supposedly taking part in a military training of the New People’s Army in the regional office of the women's group Gabriela is nothing short of ludicrous," AlterMidya, a network of independent and alternative media groups, said Saturday. Krueger and 56 others were arrested in simultaneous raids on the offices of legal activist organizations.

It added that "the military always red-tags journalists and other activists they want to silence" as it stressed that Krueger "is not a combatant and is in fact a community journalist and one of the founders of Paghimutad."

The government has filed cases against online news site Rappler, which has come out with stories and reports critical of the president's policies like the government's "war on drugs."

The Palace has also accused members of the media of conspiring to discredit the Duterte administration.

According to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF) in April, the Philippines was 134th of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index.

In 2018, the Philippines ranked 133rd, which was six notches lower than the country's 2017 ranking 127th spot.

Ampatuan massacre

The full report will be released on November 23, the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre that left 58 people—32 of whom were journalists—dead.

The case—which involves 197 suspects, including members of the Ampatuan political clan—has already been submitted for resolution and a verdict is expected this month.

"While a verdict on the Ampatuan massacre would be most welcome, it would not ensure complete justice with many of the suspects remaining at large after a decade, and still hardly make a dent on the dismal record of 186 journalists' murders in the Philippines since 1986, all but a handful of which have been solved," Nonoy Espina, chairman of IFJ affiliate National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said.

NUJP is holding a month-long commemoration leading up to the 10th anniversary of the massacre.

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