Senate committee looks into killing of journalists

CMFR/Philippines – A senate committee held a hearing on 20 May 2014 to discuss with stake holders the continuing killing of journalists and media workers in the country.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, suggested the establishment of a direct line to national level authorities for media practitioners to report threats; since, in some cases of journalists killed or threatened, police officers at the local level are the accused perpetrators.

Senator Poe opened the discussion by citing CMFR statistics on attacks and threats against journalists and media workers. This year, CMFR reported nine incidents of attacks and threats against journalists and media workers so far, while 68 incidents were reported in 2013.

CMFR also listed 141 journalists and media workers killed in the line of duty since 1986, 23 of whom were killed in the last four years of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

In comparison, the police listed 11 only work-related cases of journalists killed during the Aquino presidency.

Police Superintendent Henry Libay, head of the secretariat of TF-USIG, a police task force formed to supervise the investigation of “media killings,” said the police have listed 115 cases since 2001 but claimed that only 48 are work-related.

“There are a number of cases where it was reported as a (media killing) but it so happened that during the conduct of investigation, some of them were actually disc jockeys, some of them were drivers and some of them were even employees of the local government; and these are 21 cases,” Libay added.

CMFR, however, includes the killing of media support staff in the list of media workers killed because their work is crucial to the capacity of journalists to report and comment on events and issues of public relevance. Some disc jockeys also perform journalistic work by reporting and commenting on public affairs during their programs and as a result incur the ire of local politicians, the police, the military and other interest groups. Police and military officers have also been implicated in the killings. Several dozen are among the accused in the Ampatuan Massacre, for example.

Not included in TF-USIG’s list of 11 work-related cases under the Aquino administration are the killings of the following journalists which CMFR has established were work-related: Miguel Belen, Marlina Sumera, Niel Jimena, Roy Gallego, Antonio Silagon, Aldion Layao, Rommel Palma, Nestor Libaton, Bonifacio Loreto Jr., Richard Kho, Mario Sy, Jesus Tabanao and Richard Nadjid.

Sen. Poe also asked for progress reports from the police on their effort to recruit and continuously train police investigators. She also asked the government inter-agency committee on extrajudicial killings, headed by the Department of Justice, to report their progress to the Senate and to include media representatives in their meetings.