FFFJ: Lift the Ban on Media Coverage of the Ampatuan Massacre Trial
Is vital information being concealed from the public?
STATEMENT OF THE FREEDOM FUND FOR FILIPINO JOURNALISTS
A coalition of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the Philippine Center Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) condemns the ban on media coverage of the Ampatuan Massacre trial as an unconscionable attack on press freedom and to the imperative of keeping the public informed on the proceedings of a trial whose outcome will be critical to the dismantling or persistence of the culture of impunity.
Since August 14 this year, the police have been preventing journalists from covering the trial proceedings without providing any reason for it, and even without informing the media which agency—whether the PNP or the BJMP—ordered the ban.
The media have been covering the Ampatuan Massacre trial since 2010 to provide the public the information it needs for it to critically monitor the proceedings. The Massacre was not only the worst attack on the press in history (32 journalists and media workers were among the 58 men and women killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009). Being election-related, it was also an assault on the right to run for office and the citizens’ freedom to elect officials of their choice.
As the worst incident in the lengthening list of journalists killed in the Philippines, the Massacre is a critical turning point in the need to punish the killers of journalists, most of whom have escaped punishment. As recent events related in the proceedings have demonstrated (among them the decision of the public prosecutors to rest in the presentation of “evidence-in-chief”) media monitoring is vital in assuring the integrity of those proceedings.
FFFJ is therefore filing a complaint before the ombudsman against responsible officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Rather than demonstrating the government’s sincerity in seeing the trial to a credible conclusion, the ban provokes suspicions that concealing vital information from the public is in progress.