YET ANOTHER JOURNALIST has come under threat in the Philippines, even as an international human rights group expressed alarm over the surge in media killings in the last year.
Arthur ‘Jun’ Sapanghari Jr. of dxDB in Malaybalay City Bukidnon says he has been receiving threats following a series of reports he made on illegal logging activities in Bukidnon, according to a news alert from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. Sapanghari is the vice chairman of the NUJP Bukidnon chapter. He was also a participant in a recent PCIJ training seminar for Mindanao journalists in 2013.
Sapanghari told the PCIJ that he has already cancelled his early morning radio show and has varied his work schedule after receiving several threatening text messages. Sapanghari said the text messages warned him that he will become the next Joash Dignos. Dignos, a radio blocktimer of dxGT Radyo Abante in Maramag, Bukidnon, was shot dead by unidentified men on November 29, 2013.
More recently, Sapanghari said he has noticed several suspicious-looking men shadowing his movements.
Sapanghari said there were several occasions when unidentified men appeared to be monitoring his movements, or tailing his vehicle.
The incidents came just as the international human rights group Human Rights Watch released its world report for 2013, where it expressed alarm over the surge in media killings in the Philippines and the inability of the government to meet its commitments on human rights.
A statement released by HRW noted that 12 Filipino journalists were killed in 2013 alone, “bringing the total number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed to 26 since President Benigno Aquino III took office in June 2010.”
Moreover, HRW says extrajudicial killings and harassment continue despite the Aquino government’s stated commitment to human rights.
“The Philippine government failed to match its rhetoric in support of human rights in 2013 with meaningful action to end impunity for extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances,” the HRW world report states.
The report noted that of the 26 media killing cases under the Aquino administration, there were only six cases where suspects had been arrested.
“The body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground.” said Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia Director.
The report said that government’s failure to arrest and prosecute media killers only “highlighted the climate of impunity for rights abusers in the Philippines.”
The HRW report however noted some progress in one case – that of missing activist Jonas Burgos. HRW noted that a prime suspect in the enforced disappearance of Burgos, Army Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr., had surrendered to a Manila court.
Read the full HRW report here.