By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
FIFTY-FIVE percent of journalists in Southeast Asia said the culture of impunity is a major concern in their countries, according to a report by international media groups.
Commemorating the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists last Nov. 2, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) launched the preliminary findings of their joint study on the safety of journalists which surveyed 1,000 journalists from Southeast Asia.
The survey showed that one in two journalists believes their government’s response to impunity was deemed worsening or extremely bad. Meanwhile, 44% of journalists in Southeast Asia felt that media freedom declined in their respective countries in the past 12 months.
“The systematic failure of governments in South East Asia to act to ensure the safety and security of the media is evident from the survey findings. This research is an opportunity for action to tackle impunity and guarantee the safety of the media,” said IFJ in a statement.
The joint study also showed that the justice system (23%) is considered the top key influencer on impunity among journalists. It was followed by political leadership (19%), government (16%), and the police authority (11%).
Moreover, IFJ and SEAJU pointed out that working conditions, cyber attack, physical attack, and arrest and detention were the biggest threats to journalists in 2018.
“The findings of the survey unequivocally show that impunity for assaults on journalists and the repression of press freedom and free expression has been steadily worsening throughout the region. This means not only do we journalists need to further strengthen our ranks and cooperate across borders to protect ourselves and improve our welfare, we will also need to undertake more direct engagements with our audiences, the people we serve, and get them firmly on our side,” said SEAJU in a statement.
IFJ and SEAJU, however, also noted positive advancements in behalf of safety of journalists in some Southeast Asian countries. In Timor Leste, not a single journalist has been jailed in connection with their work. Meanwhile, the change of government in Malaysia early this year has opened an opportunity for media freedom to flourish.
However, the Philippines, the third deadliest country for journalists, is facing new threats and challenges such as online trolls and campaigns that make them feel unsafe online and offline.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his part said: “In just over a decade, more than a thousand journalists have been killed while carrying out their indispensable work. Nine out of ten cases are unresolved, with no one held accountable.”
He added, “I call on Governments and the international community to protect journalists and create the conditions they need to do their work…. Reporting is not a crime.”