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Solidarity Mission Arrives in Philippines

International Solidarity Mission Arrives in Philippines

An international emergency mission led by the Intern ational Federation of Journalists (IFJ) arrived in the Philippines today to support local journalists and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines ( NUJ P) in the wake of the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao Province , Mindanao , in which at least 30 journalists and media workers were killed.

The delegation comprises representatives from leading journalists’ rights and press freedom organisations including the IFJ, the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, the Thai Journalists’ Association (TJA), International News Safety Institute (INSI), International Media Support (IMS), the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI) and Union Network Intern ational (UNI).

The mission, organised at the request of the NUJ P, an IFJ affiliate, will visit General Santos City and Manila to meet the families of victims, the local media community, lawyers and government authorities and officials.

The delegation is expected to meet a representative of President Gloria Arroyo on December 9, to press home international and local demands for a full and credible investigation into the massacre of at least 57 people in all.

On the same day, the IFJ has called for all its affiliates and partner organisations across the world to join a Global Day of Solidarity in support of the Philippines media community.

The international mission will take into account the findings of an independent fact-finding report prepared by the NUJP with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and members of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), and the Mindanao-based news agency Mindanews, who conducted their own inquiries in Mindanao last week.

The fact-finding team verified that of the 57 people known to have been killed on November 23, 30 were journalists and media workers. Another media worker remains missing.

“The massacre claimed nearly an entire generation of journalists from the small print and broadcast communities of General Santos, Koronadal City , and nearby areas,” the report said. “At least 22 of the 31 fatalities were married and had children, indicating an enormous need for continuing humanitarian assistance.”

Among the media personnel killed, 22 worked for newspapers and tabloids. Most of the media personnel were based in General Santos City.

Freddie Solinap, the publisher of the weekly Periodico Ini, said his paper had lost four of its six staff, or the full complement of media personnel on the paper.

The fact-finding report raises a series of concerns about investigations by authorities into the massacre and the conduct of military personnel in the area where the massacre took place.

The report notes that gaps in the work of the police, investigators and prosecutors have not been given sufficient national media coverage.

Key issues identified in the report include the following:

¬ Poor handling and contamination of the massacre site.

¬ Poor handling of the remains of bodies.

¬ An apparent preference for testimonial rather than physical evidence.

¬ A detachment of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), under the command of the military, was positioned near the massacre site, but claims it did not see the convoy of cars carrying those who were killed.

¬ The enormous weapons arsenal of the Ampatuan family, which is implicated in the atrocity, has not been fully confiscated.

¬ It is imperative to disarm all clans, political families in the area.

¬ Missing or still undisclosed documents from local and national authorities include the police case referral report, which should contain a summary of the evidence and findings of the investigator, and serve as basis for the prosecution of the case/s.

¬ There are also no publicly available copies of presidential issuances covering the grant of so-called “blanket authority” for Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to deal with the “state of emergency” in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City .

¬ Government resources were used to fly the lawyer of Andal Ampatuan Jr, the main suspect, since charged with murder, from Cotabato City to General Santos City .

¬ The government response has not eased the anxiety and fear of local residents and media workers in the affected areas, and threats to the safety and security of the communities linger.

“The international mission will deliver a strong message to the Arroyo Government that its long-held complacency toward horrific levels of violence against media personnel over many years cannot and will not continue,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

“The IFJ honours the great courage of journalists in the Philippines and the NUJ P as it does all it can to support the families of those killed on November 23 and to fight for justice for their colleagues and their families.”

For more information on the IFJ Global Day of Solidarity, in which journalists’ organisations worldwide are encouraged to take action to demand an end to anti-media violence in the Philippin
es , see http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/urgent-ifj-philippines-appeal

To read the NUJ P independent fact-finding mission report, click here

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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