ONCE called Asia’s freest press, Philippine media is now only “partly free” and has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and is even worsening under the Aquino administration, media practitioners said on Saturday as they marked World Press Freedom Day.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines marked World Press Freedom Day with a protest rally at Mendiola Street in Manila to protest the continued media killings in the country and show that the “situation of the press in the country under Aquino is worsening.”
Metro Manila CEGP chairwoman Charina Claustro said the murder of tabloid reporter and columnist Rubylita Garcia last April 6 only “affirms that the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists” and the Aquino administration has done nothing about it.
Garcia, a reporter for the tabloid Remate, was killed inside her home in Bacoor City by two men who walked in with no attempt at concealment and shot her at least four times and then left on a motorcycle.
Before dying of her gunshot injuries, Garcia said she suspected Tanza town police chief Supt. Conrado Villanueva was behind the shooting. Villanueva has been since been relieved from his post and suspended from duty pending an ongoing investigation.
The National Press Club also called on its media colleagues everywhere to help in calling attention to the fact that the country remains third in world ranking as the “most dangerous country” for journalists after Iraq and Somalia despite the absence of widespread civil strife.
The NPC also noted that for the past four years, the US-based Freedom House has downgraded freedom of the press in the Philippines to “partly free” because of media killings and lack of legislation on the freedom of information.
“We deplore the Aquino government’s continued denial that media killing is as prevalent today as it was in previous administrations and on its insistence that most of these deaths are ‘not work-related’,” said NPC president Benny Antiporda.
“Indeed, over this unstated ‘official government stand’ on the issue, cases of media killings and violence against the members of the Philippine press can only pile up in the remaining months of the Aquino administration while cases already are trapped in red tape,” Antiporda added.
Antiporda also paid tribute to journalists who have been slain in the line of duty over the years, 24 of them in the first three years alone of the Aquino administration.
But the Aquino administration insisted that is has wavered in going after those behind media killings to give justice to the victims and their families.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, said that one reason for the high number of unsolved media killings is the big number of journalists killed in the Maguindanao massacre in 2009.
Coloma told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that the Global Impunity Index based its ranking from cases on media killings that remain unsolved.
“It’s easy to learn why the number of media killings is high,” Coloma said. “In the Maguindana massacre case that happened in 2009, more than 50 people are thought to have died because of impunity against journalists.”