By Visayas Today
The Philippines has the highest number of unsolved journalist murders in the world, the latest report of international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists showed.
The CPJ’s 2019 Global Impunity Index, which “spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free,” also placed the country, the only one from Southeast Asia on its list, at fifth place while noting that it “has been among the worst five countries nearly every year since the index was first published in 2008.”
The media watchdog counted 41 unsolved journalist murders for the Philippines, compared to 25 for strife-wracked Somalia, which remained the world’s worst country “when it comes to prosecuting murderers of journalists” for the fifth year in a row.
The 2019 Global Impunity Index was released Tuesday, October 29.
CPJ acknowledged that the Philippines’ perennial “worst 5” ranking has been due in part to the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers.
The incident, considered the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded, happened when gunmen stopped a convoy on its way to register the candidacy of a local politician and gunned down the occupants as well as passengers of two vehicles that also happened to pass by.
The trial of the more than 100 suspects in the massacre concluded in August but, with the incident’s 10th anniversary drawing near, a verdict has yet to be handed down.
PH listing ‘expected’
Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) executive director Joel Sy Egco said the country’s ranking is “expected,” stressing that the massacre case has been keeping the country on the list since 2009.
“The CPJ report is not surprising and was actually expected. In fact, we have been anticipating that because for as long as the massacre case remains in the equation, following the methodology used by CPJ, we shall remain on that list,” Egco said during the 67th anniversary celebrations of the National Press Club last Tuesday, October 29.
He noted that the case is nearing promulgation and that he expects that by 2020, the country would be given a much improved ranking.
Egco however said the PTFoMS y find it “appalling” that the CPJ formula does not factor in government efforts in holding perpetrators to account by running after and eventually filing charges against them.
“I have already established contact with CPJ Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin and raised our concern. There is something amiss in their methodology such as that if state action would not be considered, and that’s for all countries they cover, then they are not helping at all,” Egco said.
He said there is no impunity in the Philippines as the Philippine government takes action on all cases brought to PTFoMS’ attention.
He cited the filing of double murder charges against Armando Velasco, Edgardo Cabrera and a ‘John Doe’ for the death of journalist Jupiter Gonzales and his friend Christopher Tiongson last October 20 as proof.
Month-long countdown to 10th massacre anniversary
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and its student arm, the Union of Journalists of the Philippines at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, announced coordinated activities a month before the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre.
Both organizations shall hold a series of forums in various schools throughout the country in cooperation with the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines and other youth and media groups.
The NUJP shall also conduct its annual massacre site visit with local and international media groups before the 10th anniversary on November 23.
The activities shall culminate in a mural painting event in Manila before a 58-second broadcast silence at 11:23 AM by participating radio and television stations in honor of the 58 massacre victims and a rally at Mendiola Bridge on November 23.
The countries in the 2019 Global Impunity Index according to rank
4. South Sudan
(With additional reports from Raymund B. Villanueva)