THE PHILIPPINES remained the seventh worst country in the world where journalist killers get away with murder, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The country, where 85 Filipino journalists were killed between 1992 and 2022, had 14 unsolved murders involving reporters, the New York-based watchdog said in a report.
“The election of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. brought hope of a shift away from outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign of intimidation and harassment of the press,” CPJ said. But recent murders “raised fears that the culture of violence and impunity will endure.”
The group was referring to the murders of radio journalists Percival Mabasa, who had been critical of some politicians, and Renato Blanco, who had reported on local politics and corruption.
Mr. Mabasa, the second journalist killed since Mr. Marcos took office in June and the 197th since the fall of the dictatorship in 1986, was shot and killed by assassins on a motorcycle in front of his house in Las Piñas City near the Philippine capital.
“The vast majority of killers of journalists continue to get away with murder,” CPJ said in its 2022 Global Impunity Index. In about 80% of the 263 cases of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work globally in the past decade, the perpetrators had not been punished, it added.
Somalia was at the top of the impunity index, CPJ said, citing the country’s “history of conflict, political instability and weak rule of law underscoring the entrenched nature of impunity and making it unlikely that authorities will ever devote resources to seeking justice for the journalists.”
Myanmar was at eighth place, with its military having jailed dozens of journalists and “used sweeping anti-state and false news laws to suppress independent reporting.”
Three journalists in Myanmar photographed protests against the regime and were arrested and killed in custody.
In the Philippines, the most recent murder has raised concerns because it happened in an urban area; most killings have taken place in the countryside.
“The resolution of cases of attacks against our colleagues as well as the assurance that threats against us will be taken seriously are among the best ways to ensure that we can report without fear of reprisal,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement.
“We hope that the CPJ findings are not dismissed as propaganda and will instead prompt the government to redouble efforts to solve the cases,” it added
The impunity in the Philippines impedes freedom of expression and the people’s right to access reliable information, the Council for People’s Development said in a separate statement.
“Freedom of expression is compromised by a climate unfavorable to exercising basic freedoms,” it said.
The council said Mr. Duterte, Mr. Marcos’ predecessor, had worsened the situation of journalists in a country that ranked 128th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index under his watch. The Philippines also ranked seventh in the CPJ index last year.
The civic group cited cases of attacks against journalists and media networks such as the ABS-CBN Corp., one of the largest broadcasting networks in the country, and Altermidya, an alternative news group.
It said the Duterte administration’s tagging of journalists critical of the government as communists and terrorists had led to illegal arrests and harassment.
“Ultimately, when… basic rights are attacked, journalists are all too frequently the first casualties, and in the end, the Filipino people are the victims.”
The Department of Justice (DoJ) said the Marcos government would continue its probe of journalist murders and harassment incidents.
“This Index will not stop the new administration from investigating and prosecuting work-related killings and harassment of journalists,” DoJ spokesman Jose Dominic F. Clavano IV said in a statement.
“We understand the importance of good journalism and we will take concrete steps in protecting those that simply want to keep the government and its officials in check,” he said. “It is a right we must respect and preserve.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza