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Ampatuan Town Massacre: The Lessons We Can Never Forget

Ampatuan Town Massacre: The Lessons We Can Never Forget

Re: Message to Congress of the NUJP

On behalf of the International Federation of Journalists I am pleased to send you and all the colleagues of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines a message of solidarity and goodwill on the occasion of your Congress.

Scarcely a day has passed since the terrible events of 23rd November last year when we have not thought of the implications of the tragedy in Maguindanao province. The massacre has left an indelible scar on the face of journalism and has been deeply felt by journalists around the world. This appalling loss of life has come to symbolise a deepening crisis within journalism globally. Increasingly we see targeting and violence against independent journalists as a first choice of ruthless political forces in their constant efforts to prevent media exposure of corruption and malpractice in public life.

Within the IFJ we have referred time and again to the massacre as the worst and most brutal example of complacency in the face of impunity in the killing of journalists. In the Philippines, the authorities bear a heavy responsibility for creating an enabling atmosphere for brutality against journalists to take place and to go unpunished. But what has happened in Maguindanao could equally happen in Mexico, in Sri Lanka, in Afghanistan or in Iraq, or in many other countries where political instability and the absence of the rule of law makes journalism an easy target.

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A month ago in New York at the General Assembly of the United Nations, the IFJ with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, once again called for the international community to renew its commitment to challenge impunity and to give teeth to the United Nations Resolution 1738 which for the first time challenged governments to protect journalists in conflict zones.

The nature of conflict today is not easy to define. Increasingly we find journalists trying to report on social disorder caused not by formal set-piece confrontation between armed forces, but in areas where private armies, gangsters and paramilitary groups operate forms of terrorism that threaten the local population. When journalists seek to report on these developments or ask difficult questions they become frontline victims. We have a duty not just to assist them, but to demand forms of international and national protection that will be effective.

This is the challenge that we are taking up after the massacre. The price paid by journalists and their families in the Philippines has been unacceptably high for years. It is a matter of urgency that we support our colleagues at the NUJP in their efforts to turn the tide and to create a safe and ethical working environment for all journalists in all corners of the country.

We also express our solidarity with your campaign for justice in the workplace. Journalism is scarred not only by an intolerable threat of violence, but also by the routine and scandalous exploitation of journalists and corrupt employment practices. It is time for a new start in journalism that respects the right of all journalists to decent work and decent pay.

In all of this the International Federation of Journalists will support you. We salute the officers and members of the NUJP in their continued struggle for justice and we pledge to speak out at all levels of our work to end the injustice of the events a year ago in Ampatuan Town. We honour who those died and in their memory we will do everything we can to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated, not just in the Philippines, but anywhere around the world.

In solidarity and with best wishes.


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