MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines remains in 6th spot among 14 countries with the highest number of unsolved journalists’ killings.
In its second annual Impunity Index released yesterday, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) called for the creation of special courts to handle cases of media killings in the country.
The Index is based on the number of unresolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population, examining every country worldwide from Jan. 1, 1999 to Dec. 31, 2008.
The index was topped by Iraq, with 88 cases of unsolved journalists’ murders, followed by Sierra Leone with nine; Somalia with six; Sri Lanka, nine; Colombia, 16; Philippines, 24; Afghanistan, seven; Nepal, five; Russia, 15; Pakistan, 10; Mexico, six; Bangladesh, seven; Brazil, five; and India, seven.
Shawn Crispin, CPJ senior representative for Southeast Asia, said local judges handling the cases of killings of media practitioners in the provinces “have remained reluctant to pursue the cases.”
He said the proposed special courts should be based in Metro Manila.
“In each of these cases, the prosecutor feels that justice cannot be achieved at the local level,” Crispin said as he cited the move of lawyers to have the cases transferred to courts in Metro Manila.
Lawyer Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, legal counsel of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), said “this is the reality in a number of the ‘active cases’ being monitored by their group.”
CPJ released its report in the Philippines to mark the fourth death anniversary of Marlene Esperat, writer of Midland Review, who was gunned down inside her house in Sultan Kudarat on March 24, 2005.
“CPJ began compiling the index in 2008 to raise awareness about a disturbing pattern of impunity (in journalists’ killings) in countries across the world. The organization has undertaken a Global Campaign Against Impunity to seek justice in journalist deaths, the world’s gravest threat to free expression, and has focused particularly on unsolved killings in Russia and the Philippines,” the group said.
“At least 24 journalist murders have gone unsolved in the last decade. This pervasive climate of impunity has led to repeated attacks on the press, with renewed levels of violence recorded in 2008.
“In just one week in August 2008, radio journalists Martin Roxas and Dennis Cuesta were fatally shot,” the report stated in an entry on the Philippines.
Crispin cited Esperat’s case, in which he said: “After four years, the prosecution is still at square one because of the maneuverings of those said to be the masterminds.”
The CPJ slammed the Arroyo administration’s failure to resolve killings of journalists, saying the country ranks first among peacetime democracies with an impunity rating of 90 percent.–Reinir Padua and Dino Balabo, Philippine Star