23 November 2011

Campaigns and Advocacy

CMFR statement on second anniversary of Ampatuan massacre, "a turning point and a test"


(CMFR/IFEX) - November 23, 2011 - International press freedom and media advocacy groups may have designated November 23 as the International Day to End Impunity, but here in the Philippines, on this, the second anniversary of the foul deed now known as the Ampatuan Massacre, the glacial progress of the trial of those accused of planning and carrying out the killing has become an enormous cause for distress because the possibility that it may drag on for years bodes ill for press freedom, human rights and the quest for justice in Philippine society.

A year ago the pace of the judicial proceedings had already set off alarm bells among journalists' and media advocacy groups, the relatives of those killed and anyone else who still cared about the future of the free press and democracy in this country.

The Massacre was, after all, a brutal attack on the free press as an institution necessary in any country with any pretence of democracy, and on the people's right to choose their leaders. By murdering 58 men and women, among them the lawyers, relatives and allies of a candidate for provincial governor, as well as 32 journalists and media workers, the killers set press freedom and free elections back by many years, and earned for the country the dubious distinction of being the site not only of the worst attack on the press in history, but also of a fraudulent democracy.

Both political and media killings have a long and brutal history in this country. Politicians, their allies and their campaign workers are killed so routinely in the Philippines that every election is always declared peaceful, no matter how many casualties are produced. The Massacre was a crime waiting to happen. The persistence of warlordism, the antipathy of local tyrants toward the press and the many weaknesses of the justice system made it inevitable.

The Massacre, however, was also a turning point, and a test not only of the will and capacity of the Philippine state to ensure the safety of its citizens, but also of its ability to provide them with justice.

Journalists and media advocacy groups knew a year ago, and know it even more now, that, unless the Massacre trial is credibly concluded, with the killers and masterminds convicted and sentenced to the prison terms they so richly deserve, not only will the killings of journalists, in addition to human rights workers, political activists, environmental advocates, judges, lawyers, students, farmers and workers, continue, they will actually escalate.

That distinct possibility makes the Massacre trial so crucial to the life and future of this country. And yet, judging by the laidback response to, among others, the suggestions for reforms in the rules of court that media groups and the Free Legal Assistance Group of lawyers have proposed, the Philippine government does not seem to be in any hurry to address the urgent concerns - for press freedom, democracy and the country as a whole - that the Massacre has triggered.

This simply will not do. The Aquino government must not only take the steps necessary to speed up this trial, it must also demonstrate when journalists are killed that it has put in place the means to punish the killers and masterminds. To do nothing or little can only lead to more journalist deaths, adding to the six already killed in the line of duty since Mr. Benigno Aquino III took office.

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More on this case

SEAPA presents appeal letter calling for an end to impunity 23 November 2011 Appeal for key suspect in Ampatuan massacre trials rejected 10 November 2011 IFJ demands safety guarantee at Ampatuan massacre trials 8 August 2011 "Special court" designated to handle Ampatuan massacre case 15 July 2011 Supreme Court allows live coverage of Ampatuan massacre trial 24 June 2011 IFJ welcomes arraignment of key Ampatuan massacre suspects 3 June 2011 Thirty-eight organisations call for freedom of expression and justice in the Ampatuan massacre trials 1 June 2011 Court demands explanation for critical remarks by journalist, victim's widow, in Ampatuan trial 5 May 2011 Five hundred days since massacre, it's time for Aquino to act, say Philippine and international organisations 8 April 2011 Add your voice in support of justice for murdered journalists 10 March 2011 CMFR statement on 15-month commemoration of Ampatuan Massacre 24 February 2011 International partnership meeting statement 24 November 2010 RSF pays tribute to victims, one year after Maguindanao massacre 24 November 2010 CMFR statement in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre 24 November 2010 IFEX remembers Maguindanao massacre on one-year anniversary 22 November 2010 Damning testimony for Ampatuan clan at Maguindanao massacre trial 10 September 2010 Lawyer interviewed as Maguindanao massacre trial resumes 2 September 2010 CPJ meets justice officials, urges anti-impunity policies 25 August 2010 Trial date set for Mindanao massacre trial 20 August 2010 Key witness in Ampatuan massacre case shot dead 24 June 2010 In letter to President-elect Aquino, CPJ calls for launch of probe into circumstances surrounding Maguindanao massacre 10 June 2010 Political interference suspected after charges against alleged masterminds of Maguindanao massacre are dropped 20 April 2010 Accused in Maguindanao massacre to remain in detention despite dismissal of rebellion charges 5 April 2010 Human Rights Watch calls on authorities to protect witnesses to Maguindanao massacre 11 March 2010 "Lest we forget" - Joint CMFR and SEAPA statement on the 100th day of the Ampatuan massacre 5 March 2010 Indictment of nearly 200 in Maguindanao killings a welcome first step 10 February 2010 Toll of media workers killed in massacre rises, attacks continue 20 January 2010 Media restrictions in Ampatuan trial must be lifted, says coalition of Filipino journalists 13 January 2010 Coalition of media groups calls for independent probe into massacre of journalists 9 December 2009 CMFR statement on the killings in Maguindanao 24 November 2009 Twelve reporters among victims of mass killing 23 November 2009
Philippines

IFEX members working in this country 1

 
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At this point, would publish: "What IFEX members are doing for 23 November"
At this point, would publish: "CMFR statement on the killings in Maguindanao"
At this point, would publish: "Largest massacre of journalists ever takes place prior to elections"
At this point, would publish: "Coalition of media groups calls for independent probe into massacre of journalists"
At this point, would publish: "IFJ international mission demands justice for massacre"
At this point, would publish: "Media restrictions in Ampatuan trial must be lifted, says coalition of Filipino journalists"
At this point, would publish: "Toll of media workers killed in massacre rises, attacks continue"
At this point, would publish: "Indictment of nearly 200 in Maguindanao killings a welcome first step"
At this point, would publish: "Lest we forget - Joint CMFR and SEAPA statement on the 100th day of the Ampatuan massacre"
At this point, would publish: "Human Rights Watch calls on authorities to protect witnesses to Maguindanao massacre"
At this point, would publish: "Accused in Maguindanao massacre to remain in detention despite dismissal of rebellion charges"
At this point, would publish: "Political interference suspected after charges against alleged masterminds of Maguindanao massacre are dropped"
At this point, would publish: "In letter to President-elect Aquino, CPJ calls for launch of probe into circumstances surrounding Maguindanao massacre"
At this point, would publish: "Key witness in Ampatuan massacre case shot dead"
At this point, would publish: "Trial date set for Mindanao massacre trial"
At this point, would publish: "CPJ meets justice officials, urges anti-impunity policies"
At this point, would publish: "Lawyer interviewed as Maguindanao massacre trial resumes"
At this point, would publish: "Damning testimony for Ampatuan clan at Maguindanao massacre trial"
At this point, would publish: "IFEX remembers Maguindanao massacre on one-year anniversary"
At this point, would publish: "CMFR statement in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre"
At this point, would publish: "International partnership meeting statement"
At this point, would publish: "RSF pays tribute to victims, one year after Maguindanao massacre"
At this point, would publish: "Massacre victim's family watched by unknown men"
At this point, would publish: "CMFR statement on 15-month commemoration of Ampatuan Massacre"
At this point, would publish: "Five hundred days since massacre, it's time for Aquino to act, say Philippine and international organisations"
At this point, would publish: "Court demands explanation for critical remarks by journalist, victim's widow, in Ampatuan trial"
At this point, would publish: "Thirty-eight organisations call for freedom of expression and justice in the Ampatuan massacre trials"
At this point, would publish: "IFJ welcomes arraignment of key Ampatuan massacre suspects"
At this point, would publish: "Supreme Court allows live coverage of Ampatuan massacre trial"
At this point, would publish: ""Special court" designated to handle Ampatuan massacre case"
At this point, would publish: "IFJ demands safety guarantee at Ampatuan massacre trials"
At this point, would publish: "Appeal for key suspect in Ampatuan massacre trials rejected"
At this point, would publish: "SEAPA presents appeal letter calling for an end to impunity"
At this point, would publish: "Twelve reporters among victims of mass killing"
 
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