WITHIN a span of four days this week, two attacks on radio journalists have resulted in the killing of one in Roxas City and the serious wounding of another in General Santos City, prompting the Bangkok-based regional press freedom watchdog, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), to express outrage at what it calls the “continuing crisis of impunity against Filipino journalists.”
Below is the SEAPA’s media release:
SEAPA strongly condemns twin assaults on RMN journalists; takes Arroyo government to task for failing to act on impunity
BANGKOK — The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a coalition of journalist and press freedom advocacy groups from Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, expresses serious concern over two attacks on Filipino journalists within the space of four days. Successive assaults on two Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) this week underscore a continuing crisis of impunity against Filipino journalists that Philippine officials must once and for all decisively address.
“We are disgusted and we are outraged,” SEAPA executive director Roby Alampay said in a statement. “In February 2008, journalists, jurists, and human rights advocates from Southeast Asia, Europe, the US, and as far as Latin America flew to Manila to lend support for a call to end the impunity with which Filipino journalists are being murdered. No less than Chief Justice Reynato Puno set the tone for their meeting, saying ending violence against journalists is vital to press freedom and democracy and the very future of the Philippine nation. What has government so far done to
protect journalists or to deliver justice?”
Martin Roxas, program director of dyKR-Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) in Roxas City, Capiz, was shot on 7 August by two suspects on a motorcycle. He died in the hospital an hour later.
A colleague of Roxas in the same radio network, anchorman Dennis Cuesta of dxMD in General Santos City, was similarly ambushed three days earlier on 4 August. Cuesta sustained five gunshot wounds and is currently comatose. RMN executives and colleagues of both journalists believe the attacks were work-related.
SEAPA’s Manila-based member, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), says Roxas was the fourth journalist/media practitioner killed this year. SEAPA is further dismayed by CMFR’s report that 33 journalists/media practitioners have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 2001 — or since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over government.
“Impunity is not only a symptom of weakness in the rule of law,” Alampay said. “It can also indicate officialdom’s apathy, and where there is apathy, it is a thin line that separates helplessness from complicity. Government must act with more resolve and sincerity to stamp out impunity and all these attacks on the Philippine press.”
SEAPA is a coalition of press freedom advocacy groups from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Established in November 1998, it is the only regional network with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom throughout Southeast Asia. SEAPA is composed of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Indonesia), the Jakarta-based Institute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information (ISAI), the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and
Responsibility, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Thai Journalists Association. SEAPA also has partners in Malaysia, Cambodia, and East Timor, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.