THE PHILIPPINE government’s effort to downplay the state of media murders, but also less than vigorous effort to arrest and prosecute the masterminds and gunmen, took a double hit yesterday from two international media organizations.

“Yet another journalist death shows that the government’s claims that this problem is ‘not that serious’ is a farce,” according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in reference to the fatal shooting of radio broadcaster Joash Dignos on Nov. 29, 2013 in Valencia City, Bukidnon province, about 1,500 kilometers south of Manila.

Contributed photo by Jun Sapanghari

In a separate statement, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres, RSF) said that Dignos’s murder illustrates that Philippine authorities “still have a great deal to do to fulfill their duty to protect journalists and combat the continuing impunity.”

RSF noted that Dignos was killed just six days after the fourth anniversary of the November 23, 2009 massacre of 32 media workers in nearby Maguindanao province, the deadliest assault on the press on a single day, which is now observed worldwide as International Day to End Impunity.

Contributed photo by Jun Sapanghari

RSF welcomed the creation of a special task group to investigate Dignos’s murder yet also reiterated the need for government to “act preemptively to end violence against journalists.”

“Execution-style killings of journalists should not be regarded as inevitable,” it added.

Mars Medina, dxGT program manager, where Dignos ran a political commentary program called “Bombardeyo” said Dignos had been receiving death threats on his cell phone, prompting him to start pre-taping his commentary programs days to his death.

Founded in Montpellier, France in 1985, RSF covers five continents through its network of correspondents in 150 countries. It has 10 offices and sections worldwide and has a consultant status at the United Nations and UNESCO.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement the IFJ averred averred the effort of the Aquino government to downplay the numbers of degree of seriousness of media murders in the country.

“The Philippines’s continued failure to arrest journalist killers has made it a global target for criticism in its handling of these cases,” IFJ said.

Representing some 600,000 journalists in 131 countries, the IFJ called on authorities to make swift progress to bring the killers of Dignos to justice.

A local IFJ-affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) decried the government’s failed promise of “swift justice” amid the lingering culture of impunity in the country.

“Each and every media killing is a result of this twisted system, as is the impunity with which such killings continue — 18 to date under the current administration. That not a single mastermind in any of the 157 media murders since 1986 has ever been convicted and punished is enough proof of this,” NUJP said.

The NUJP was formed in 1986 and has since been advancing the interests of the Filipino working press while promoting free expression and free press. It now has over 1,500 members and over 60 chapters in the Philippines and abroad.

For its part, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) stressed that in all the media murder cases, a mastermind has yet to be convicted halfway through the six-year term of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“Impunity is the name for the fact that only one gunman and no mastermind has been tried or even arrested in 18 out of the 19 killings of journalists from 2010 to 2013, and for the continuing harassment many journalists have to contend with in the course of their work,” CMFR said.

CMFR is a founding member and serves as secretariat of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ). The other FFFJ members are the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). – Cong B. Corrales

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