The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) strongly condemns the murder of Radyo Natin broadcaster Eliseo “Ely” Binoya in General Santos City on Thursday, June 17, 2004. Binoya’s murder was unconscionable.
We call on the authorities to investigate this case thoroughly and resolve it quickly. We also call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to make good on her promise to protect journalists. She must see to it that suspects in Binoya’s case, as well as in the other cases, are brought to justice as soon as possible.
Binoya’s murder, and the series of attacks and harassment against journalists in the past few weeks, highlights the deteriorating press-freedom and human-rights situation in the Philippines.
We reiterate our position that the series of unsolved murders of journalists contributes to the climate of impunity against journalists, particularly in the provinces, where most of these attacks take place.
Since 1986, a total of 52 journalists have been murdered, according to the combined figures from the NUJP, Bulatlat.com, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the Philippine Movement for Press Freedom. Unfortunately, not one of these cases has been solved.
Perhaps because the perpetrators have been able to get away with it, the attacks against journalists continue. Before Binoya’s murder, Cebu City broadcaster Cirse “Choy” Torralba of Angel Radio was injured in an ambush on June 8. On February 11, Ruel Endrinal of DZRC in Legazpi City was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen. Two days later, Modesto Gutierrez, a radio commentator of DWSI in Santiago City, Isabela, survived a grenade attack.
More attacks and harassment against journalists and media outlets occurred between February and May. In one case, in Ozamiz City, journalists who were covering a protest action were included in a libel suit filed against those who organized the protest action.
One of the more notorious harassment cases was the series of closure orders issued by the Dys of Isabela province against Radyo Bombo, the latest – the third — just barely a week ago.
On May 31, Melvin Mamis, a correspondent of the alternative multi-media group Southern Tagalog Exposure, was manhandled by members of the 20th Special Forces inside a military camp in Rosario, a town in Batangas, south of Manila. The soldiers allegedly tried to confiscate Mamis’s video camera. The assault on Mamis occurred while he was covering a fact-finding mission by the human-rights group Karapatan looking into the military’s alleged human-rights violations in the Southern Tagalog region.
This month, DWBL broadcaster Rolando Bartolome was suspended allegedly for his criticism of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. A number of publications, among them Newsbreak and the Daily Tribune, were recently slapped with libel suits by the President’s husband, Miguel Arroyo.
Also this month, the Supreme Court denied a request by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism for copies of the justices’ statements of assets and liabilities. The court’s decision violates the public’s right to know.
The government’s censor, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, also threatened to impose sanctions on television networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7 for airing materials on the marriage of lesbian couples.
Several international media and human-rights groups have condemned the Philippines’s deteriorating press-freedom record, among them the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontieres, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Human Rights Watch. Freedom House, a non-profit pro-democracy group, recently issued a report that said press freedom in the Philippines has deteriorated, especially in 2003, when seven Filipino journalists were murdered.
In the face of these assaults on press freedom and on journalists, our leaders cannot continue to claim that the Philippines is a free society where freedom of expression is sacrosanct. The deterioration of press freedom reflects the deterioration of respect for human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines. #
Jose Torres Jr.
Head, NUJP Committee for the Protection of Journalists
Carlos H. Conde