The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has made an emotional appeal for solidarity and support in the wake of the Ampatuan Town Massacre in which 31 journalists and media workers were murdered.
NUJP chairman Nestor Burgos says Filipino journalists are grateful for the flood of support that has already been expressed from around the world. â€œIt has helped enormously. But we want all journalists to join us, to band together, to end this culture of impunity over journalist killings. Filipino journalists are now trying to function in a violent atmosphere in the lead-up to crucial elections on May 10, 2010,â€ he says.
â€œNo one knows if another Filipino journalist will be killed or if continued government inaction will mean justice is denied to those who have been murdered already. If we are to overcome this decades-old problem, we need help from our journalist colleagues around the world.
â€œWe need to stand together to stop these atrocities from spreading to other countries. We need to demand that governments take action to ensure journalist safety, and justice for our slain colleagues,â€ Burgos says.
A day of protests has been called for Wednesday, December 9 and the NUJP, an affiliate member of the International Federation of Journalists, is seeking strong demonstrations of solidarity from other journalist unions and media groups around the world as it battles for justice for the slain media representatives. A massive public rally and march will take place in Manila on the day, with other protests planned across the Philippines.
The NUJP fears that the Philippines Government will continue to take insufficient action to end a culture of impunity in relation to the killing of journalists. More than 100 Filipino journalists had been killed in the 23 years prior to the massacre in Ampatuan Town in the province of Maguindanao on the island of Mindanao on Monday, November 23.
Burgos says: â€œWe are worried that, despite the magnitude of this atrocity, President Gloria Arroyoâ€™s administration will not ensure that a full, open and transparent investigation takes place. Already prosecutors have told us that they have received death threats and have asked for proper security in order for them to carry out their vital work. Meanwhile, Mindanao journalists are operating in a climate of fear and the imposition of martial law in provincial Maguindanao has raised fears that massive human rights violations may occur on top of the tragedy which has already beset the province,â€ he says.
â€œThe relatives of the murdered journalists demand justice, and are desperate for aid and support as they try to continue their lives without their slain loved ones,â€ Burgos says,
The massacre of 57 people included the family members of the local governor, lawyers, passers-by and a media crew of 31. The group were travelling in six vehicles when they were stopped by armed militia, driven to a secluded site and murdered. Tragically, of the people killed one journalistâ€™s body, that of Reynaldo â€œBebotâ€ Momay of The Midland Review in Tacurong City remains missing despite a second search yesterday.
An international emergency mission led by the IFJ arrived in the Philippines last week to support local journalists and NUJP. The delegation comprises representatives from leading journalistsâ€™ rights and press freedom organisations including the IFJ, the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Indonesiaâ€™s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Australiaâ€™s Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the Thai Journalistsâ€™ Association (TJA), International News Safety Institute (INSI), International Media Support (IMS), the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI) and Union Network International (UNI).
The mission, organised at the request of the NUJP, has visited General Santos City in Mindanao and met with the relatives of the slain journalists, the chief city prosecutor, and local media to learn more about their pressing needs. The mission also visited General Santos City cemetery where 12 of the murdered journalists are now buried. The mission has now returned to Manila for meetings with government officials. To date, there has been no response to a request to meet with President Gloria Arroyo so that the mission can press home international and local demands for a full and credible investigation into the massacre.
â€œThe entire media profession in the Philippines is in pain. Journalists are traumatised and are operating in a climate of fear. The relatives of the victims are seeking urgent funds to support the livelihood of the dependents and also for their childrenâ€™sâ€™ education. And there is a pressing need for a thorough investigation to take place, one where the prosecutors are afforded proper protection and are fully resourced,â€ Burgos says.
â€œWe also heard from one of the colleagues of the murdered journalists who escaped being caught up in the roadblock and abduction and we believe he and others are in urgent need of protection from those implicated in the massacre.â€
The NUJP hopes that journalists the world over will join them in solidarity on December 9 to help justice prevail for all those victims, living and dead, of the Ampatuan Town Massacre. â€œWe can only move on if we can ensure that those responsible for this monstrosity are called to account for their crime,â€ Burgos says.
For more information, contact Nestor Burgos on
+63 917 725 6333