An international non-government organisation, The Global Witness, has reported that 48 individuals were killed in the country last year, a majority related to agribusiness. Image: Philstar
By KEN E. CAGULA in Davao City
The massive human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples or Lumads and peasants are designed to silence the opposition to the continuing operations of large-scale mining and plantations in Northern Mindanao and the rest of Caraga Region.
This was the assessment made by the environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment or Kalikasan PNE.
“The military is trying to flush out the opposition to mining and plantation interests in Northern Mindanao and Caraga region,” said Kalikasan PNE coordinator Leon Dulce.
Dulce points out that these Lumad and peasant leaders are the environmental defenders that continue to stand and oppose the large-scale mining and plantation operations in areas of Mindanao.
At present, these environmental defenders are protecting around 243,163 ha of forest and agricultural lands within their ancestral domains and farmlands against the encroachment of these extractive and destructive projects in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region, he said.
Hundreds of Lumad residents from Sitio Manluy-a, Panukmoan, and Decoy in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town in Surigao del Sur fled from their homes after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a series of artillery bombardment and harassments last month.
On January 24, two Manobo farmers identified as Randel Gallego and Emel Tejero, all residents of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon went missing after they were allegedly fired upon by soldiers while hauling abaca products.
Dead farmers The families of the two farmers found their dead bodies at a military detachment six days after they were reported missing.
The 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army claimed that Gallego and Tejero were killed in a clash between soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
But human rights advocates belied the military’s claim, saying that the two were unarmed civilians.
“The Lumad communities in Lianga are standing firmly against the coal and gold mining exploration and development projects attempting to grab lands and resources from their ancestral lands ensconced within the Andap River Valley Complex. For this, they are constantly being attacked by the military,” Dulce said.
These areas in Surigao del Sur are one of the largely militarised areas in Caraga region, prompting the exodus of IPs out from their lands due to the continuing presence of soldiers and paramilitary groups in their communities.
Kalikasan PNE also slammed the “illegal arrest” of Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation and Ireneo Udarbe, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao Region on January 28.
The police named the two leaders as “top NPA leaders” which Kalikasan PNE said is a “repeated accusation” to justify the illegal arrest.
“Goaynon and Udarbe are stalwarts of the struggles of indigenous people and peasants against agri-industrial plantations in Northern Mindanao. They have also effectively exposed military-affiliated indigenous paramilitary groups such as the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform who have been attacking Lumad lands to pave the way for mining deals,” Dulce said.
Martial law With the continued declaration of martial rule, Kalikasan PNE said that attacks against environmental defenders continue to worsen.
At least 28 cases of environmental-related killings in Mindanao were recorded by the group since it was first declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in May 23, 2017.
They noted the “growing trend” of killed defenders vilified as members or supporters of the NPA
“The Duterte government is trying to depict our fellow environmental defenders as rebels or terrorists to justify the militarization of their bastions of natural wealth. We demand that Goaynon and Udarbe be freed and that military troops wreaking havoc in Lianga be withdrawn as soon as possible.
“Justice for the murdered defenders must be delivered and the bloody reign of Duterte’s martial law over Mindanao must be lifted immediately,” Dulce said.
The statistics globally are chilling. And the Asia-Pacific region bears the brunt of the killing of journalists with impunity disproportionately.
Revelations in research published in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review on the trauma experienced by television journalists in the Philippines covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’ are deeply disturbing.
According to UNESCO, about 1,010 journalists globally have been “killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public” in the 12 years until 2017 – or on average, one death every four days.
Many argue that the Philippines, with one of the worst death tolls of journalists in the past decade, is a prime example of the crisis.
Journalists covering the “graveyard shift” were the first recorders of violence and brutality under Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The first phase in 2016, called Oplan Tokhang, was executed ruthlessly and relentlessly.
The Tagalog phase in English means “to knock and plead” and was supposed to be bloodless – a far cry from the reality.
Almario-Gonzalez’s colleague, award-winning photographer Fernando G Sepe Jr, has also contributed an associated photoessay drawn from his groundbreaking ‘Healing The Wounds From the Drug War’ gallery.
He reflects on the impact of Duterte’s onslaught on the poor in his country.
Compared to the Philippines and other Asian countries – such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar – media freedom issues in the Pacific micro states and neighbouring Australia and New Zealand may appear relatively benign – and certainly not life threatening.
Nevertheless, the Pacific faces growing media freedom challenges.
The phosphate Micronesian state of Nauru banned the Australian public broadcaster ABC and “arrested” Television New Zealand Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver while she covered the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in September 2018.
Media freedom crises In this context, Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre marked its tenth anniversary in November 2017 with a wide-ranging public seminar discussing critical media freedom crises.
Keynote speakers included Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) executive director Malou Mangahas and RNZ Pacific senior journalist Johnny Blades.
Papers from this seminar and 14 other contributing researchers from seven countries on topics ranging from the threats to the internet, post-conflict identity, Pacific media freedom and journalist safety are featured in this edition of PJR.
Unthemed paper topics include representations of Muslims in New Zealand, ASEAN development journalism, US militarism in Micronesia and the reporting of illegal rhino poaching for the Vietnamese market.
The issue has been edited by Professor David Robie, director of the PMC, Khairiah A. Rahman of AUT, and Dr Philip Cass of Unitec. The designer was Del Abcede.
Fiji Sun managing editor business Maraia Vula (middle) flanked by USP Journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh (left), joint winners Koroi Tadulala and Elizabeth Osifelo and Professor David Robie (right). Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
Keynote address by Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie at The University of the South Pacific Journalism Awards,19 October 2018, celebrating 50 years of the university’s existence.
Kia Ora Tatou and Ni Sa Bula
For many of you millennials, you’re graduating and entering a Brave New World of Journalism … Embarking on a professional journalism career that is changing technologies at the speed of light, and facing a future full of treacherous quicksands like never before.
When I started in journalism, as a fresh 18-year-old in 1964 it was the year after President Kennedy was assassinated and I naively thought my hopeful world had ended, Beatlemania was in overdrive and New Zealand had been sucked into the Vietnam War.
And my journalism career actually started four years before the University of the South Pacific was founded in 1968.
Being a journalist was much simpler back then – as a young cadet on the capital city Wellington’s Dominion daily newspaper, I found the choices were straight forward. Did we want to be a print, radio or television journalist?
The internet was unheard of then – it took a further 15 years before the rudimentary “network of networks” emerged, and then another seven before computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and complicated journalism.
The first rule for interviewing, aspiring journalists were told in newsrooms – and also in a 1965 book called The Journalist’s Craft that I rediscovered on my bookshelves the other day – was to pick the right source. Rely on sources who were trustworthy and well-informed.
This was long before Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post made “deep throat’ famous in their Watergate investigation in 1972.
The second rule was: make sure you get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but… We were told that we really needed to get a sense of when a woman or a man is telling the truth.
This, of course, fed into the third rule, which was: talk to the interviewee face to face. Drummed into us was accuracy, speed, fairness and balance.
Many of my days were spent on the wharves of Wellington Harbour painstakingly taking the details of the shipping news, or reporting accidents.
The whole idea was accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. And what a drumming we experienced from a crusty news editor calling us out when we made the slightest mistake.
If we survived this grueling baptism of fire, then we were bumped up from a cadet to a real journalist. There were few risks to journalists in those days – a few nasty complaints here and there, lack of cooperation from the public, and a possible defamation case if we didn’t know our media law.
It wasn’t until I went to South Africa in 1970 – the then white-minority ruled country that jailed one of the great leaders of our times, Nelson Mandela – that I personally learned how risky it could be being a journalist.
Jailings, assaults and banning orders were commonplace. One of my colleagues on the Rand Daily Mail, banned then exiled Peter Magubane, a brilliant photographer, was one of my earlier influences with his courage and dedication.
However, today the world is a very different place. It is basically really hostile against journalists in many countries and it continues to get worse.
Today assassinations, murders – especially the killing of those involved in investigating corruption – kidnappings, hostage taking are increasingly the norm. And being targeted by vicious trolls, often with death threats, is a media fact of life these days.
In its 2018 World Press Freedom Index annual report, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without borders (RSF), declared that journalists faced more hatred this year than last year, not only in authoritarian countries but also increasingly in countries with democratically elected leaders.
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement:
“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies.
“Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda.
“To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”
Fifty seven journalists have been killed so far in 2018, plus 10 citizen journalists for a total of 67; 155 journalists have been imprisoned, with a further 142 citizen journalists jailed – a total of 297.
Professor David Robie (centre) with media freedom defenders at the 2018 Asia-Pacific RSF strategic summit in Paris. Image: RSF
In July, it was my privilege to be in Paris for a strategic consultation of Asia-Pacific media freedom advocates in my capacity as Pacific Media Centre director and Pacific Media Watch freedom project convenor.
Much of the blame for this “press hatred” was heaped at that summit on some of today’s political leaders. We all know about US President Trump’s “media-phobia” and how he has graduated from branding mainstream media and much of what they publish or broadcast as “fake news” to declaring them “enemies of the people” – a term once used by Joseph Stalin.
#FIGHTFAKENEWS VIDEO INSERT
Source: Reporters Without Borders
However, there are many leaders in so-called democracies with an even worse record of toying with “press hatred”.
Take for example, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who is merely two years into his five-year term of office and he has unleashed a “war on drugs” killing machine that is alleged to have murdered between some 7,000 and 12,000 suspects – most of them extrajudicial killings.
He was pictured in the media cradling a high-powered rifle and he admits that he started carrying a gun recently – not to protect himself because he has plenty of security guards, but to challenge a critical senator to a draw “Wild West” style.
Instead, he simply had the senator arrested on trumped up charges. Duterte has frequently berated the media and spiced up his attacks with threats such as this chilling message he gave casually at a press conference:
“Just because you’re a journalist, you’re not exempted from assassination, if you are a son of a bitch. Free speech won’t save you.”
The death rate among radio journalists, in particular those investigating corruption and human rights violations, has traditionally been high in the Philippines.
In the Czech Republic late last year, President Miloš Zeman staged a macabre media conference stunt. He angered the press when he brandished a dummy Kalashnikov AK47 with the words “for journalists” carved into the woodstock at the October press conference in Prague, and with a bottle of alcohol attached instead of an ammunition clip.
In Slovakia, then Prime Minister Robert Fico called journalists “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and “idiotic hyenas”. A Slovak reporter, Ján Kuciak, was shot dead in his home in February, just four months after another European journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta, who was investigating corruption, was killed by a targeted car-bombing.
Last week, a 30-year-old Bulgarian investigative journalist, Viktoria Marinova, was murdered. Police said the television current affairs host investigating corruption had been raped, beaten and then strangled. Most of the media killings are done with impunity.
And then the world has been outraged by the disappearance and shocking murder of respected Saudi Arabian journalist and editor Jamal Khashoggi by a state “hit squad” of 15 men inside his own country’s consulate in Istanbul. He went into the consulate on October 2 and never came out.
The exact circumstances of what happened are still unravelling daily, but Turkish newspaper reports reveal captured audio of his gruesome killing.
BRIEF VIDEO KHASHOGGI INSERT
Source: Al Jazeera’s Listening Post
Condemning the brutal act, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed fears that enforced media disappearances are set to become the “new normal”.
While such ghastly fates for journalists may seem remote here in the Pacific, we have plenty of attacks on media freedom to contend with in our own backyard. And trolls in the Pacific and state threats to internet freedom are rife.
The detention of Television New Zealand’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver for four hours by police in Nauru at last month’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit while attempting to interview refugees is just one example of such attempts to shut down truth-seeking. Among the many protests, Amnesty International said:
“Whether it happens in Myanmar, Iran or right here in the Pacific, detaining journalists for doing their jobs is wrong. Freedom of the press is fundamental to a just society. Barbara Dreaver is a respected journalist with a long history of covering important stories across the Pacific.
“Amnesty International’s research on Nauru showed that the conditions for people who have been banished there by Australia amount to torture under international law. Children are self-harming and Googling how to kill themselves. That cannot be swept under the carpet and it won’t go away by enforcing draconian limits to media freedom.”
Journalists in the Pacific have frequently been persecuted by smallminded politicians with scant regard for the role of the media, such as led to the failed sedition case against The Fiji Times.
Professor David Robie with Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and USP journalism coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh. Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
The media play a critical role in exposing abuses of power, such as Bryan Kramer’s The Kramer Report in exposing the 40 Maserati luxury car APEC scandal in Papua New Guinea last week. Papua New Guinea’s Maserati luxury sedans scandal.
In this year’s World Media Freedom Day speech warning about the “creeping criminalisation” of journalism, the new UNESCO chair of journalism Professor Peter Greste at the University of Queensland, asked:
“If we appear to be heading into journalism’s long, dark night, when did the sun start to disappear? Although the statistics jump around a little, there appears to be a clear turning point: in 2003, when the numbers of journalists killed and imprisoned started to climb from the historic lows of the late ’90s, to the record levels of the present.
“Although coincidence is not the same as causation, it seems hard to escape the notion that the War on Terror that President George W. Bush launched after 9/11 had something to do with it.”
Peter Greste himself, and his two colleagues paid a heavy price for their truth-seeking during the post Arab Spring upheaval in Egypt – being jailed for 400 days on trumped up terrorism charges for doing their job.
His media organisation, Al Jazeera, and rival media groups teamed up to wage their global “Journalism is not a crime” campaign.
Now that I have done my best to talk you out of journalism by stressing the growing global dangers, I want to draw attention to some of the many reasons why journalism is critically important and why you should be congratulated for taking up this career.
Next month, Fiji is facing a critically important general election, the second since the return of democracy in your country in 2014. And many of you graduating journalists will be involved.
Governments in Fiji and the Pacific should remember journalists are guardians of democracy and they have an important role to play in ensuring the legitimacy of both the vote and the result, especially in a country such as this which has been emerging from many years of political crisis.
But it is important that journalists play their part too with responsibilities as well as rights. Along with the right to provide information without fear or favour, and free from pressure or threats, you have a duty to provide voters with accurate, objective and constructive information.
The University of the South Pacific has a proud record of journalism education in the region stretching back ironically to the year of the inaugural coups, in 1987. First there was a Certificate programme, founded by Dr Murray Masterton (who has sadly passed away) and later Diploma and Degree qualifications followed with a programme founded by François Turmel and Dr Philip Cass.
It is with pride that I can look back at my five years with USP bridging the start of the Millennium. Among high points were gaining my doctorate in history/politics at USP – the first journalism educator to do so in the Pacific – and launching these very Annual Journalism Awards, initially with the Storyboard and Tanoa awards and a host of sponsors.
When I look at the outstanding achievements in the years since then with current Journalism Coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh and his colleagues Eliki Drugunalevu and Geraldine Panapasa, it is with some pleasure.
And USP should be rightly delighted with one of the major success journalism programmes of the Asia-Pacific region.
Wansolwara newspaper, which celebrated two decades of publishing in 2016, has been a tremendous success. Not many journalism school publications have such sustained longevity and have won so many international awards.
Innovation has been the name of the game, such as this climate change joint digital storytelling project with E-Pop and France 24 media. At AUT we have been proud to be partners with USP with our own Bearing Witness and other projects stretching back for two decades.
Finally, I would like pay tribute to two of the whistleblowers and journalists in the Pacific and who should inspire you in your journalism career.
Firstly, Iranian-born Behrouz Boochani, the refugee journalist, documentary maker and poet who pricked the Australian conscience about the terrible human rights violations against asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. He has reminded Canberra that Australia needs to regain a moral compass.
And activist lawyer communicator Joe Moses, who campaigned tirelessly for the rights of the villagers of Paga Hill in Port Moresby. These people were forced out of their homes in defiance of a Supreme Court order to make way for the luxury development for next month’s APEC summit.
Be inspired by them and the foundations of human rights journalism and contribute to your communities and countries.
Don’t be seduced by a fast foods diet of distortion and propaganda. Be courageous and committed, be true to your quest for the truth.
Professor David Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre and professor of journalism in the School of Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. He is also editor of Pacific Journalism Review research journal and editor of the independent news website Asia Pacific Report. He is a former USP Journalism Coordinator 1998-2002. email@example.com
University of the South Pacific’s award winning Class of 2018. Image: Image: Harry Selmen/Wansolwara
Palu mayor Rusdy Mastura (seen on the billboard), apologised in 2012 for the mass killings of Communists in Indonesia, becoming the first and only Indonesian official to do so. This paved the way for family and victims of the massacre to receive aid. Image: Ulet Ifansasti
ANALYSIS:By Dr Vannessa Hearman
When the earthquake and tsunami hit the city of Palu, Central Sulawesi, last weekend, they not only brought wreckage and death. The twin disasters also swept away efforts by activists and the municipal administration to support the survivors of Indonesia’s violent anti-communist purges in 1965-1966.
In the rest of the country, such survivors are still very marginalised.
In Palu, a city of some 350,000 inhabitants and the capital of Central Sulawesi province, activists had convinced local government leaders to work with them in helping these survivors.
Palu is the only place in Indonesia where a government leader has made an official apology to the victims of the anti-communist violence in the area. Some nine days after the devastating natural disaster, the fate of some of those activists is still unknown.
Indonesian people lived under Suharto’s New Order authoritarian regime between 1968 and 1998, when the president was forced to resign. From 1965-66, the army, under Suharto, spearheaded anti-communist operations that killed half a million people and led to the detention of hundreds of thousands.
The army blamed Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI) for the murder of seven army officers on the night of 30 September and in the early hours of 1 October, 1965, by a group calling itself the Thirtieth September Movement. The 53rd anniversary of these events coincided with the terrible disaster in Central Sulawesi.
SKP-HAM is part of the national Coalition for Truth and Justice (Koalisi Pengungkapan Kebenaran dan Keadilan, KKPK).
In 2012, the KKPK held several public events and community “hearings”, dubbed the “Year of Truth Telling”, to pressure the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to rehabilitate the victims of the violence.
Yudhoyono’s promised apology never materialised. However, the “Year of Truth Telling” events yielded some important gains in Palu.
Following his apology, the SKP-HAM lobbied Mastura to deliver on his promises by providing healthcare and scholarships. A mayoral regulation and a Regional Action Plan for Human Rights (Rencana Hak Asasi Manusia, Ranham) were promulgated to enable this.
Autonomy laws These local government instruments have been made possible through Indonesia’s regional autonomy laws.
The mayoral regulation also established a committee to oversee human rights protection and restoration of victims’ rights. On May 20, 2013, Palu was declared a “Human Rights Aware City”.
Each year, the city holds a series of human rights-related events.
In May 2015, the Palu City Regional Planning Body oversaw the process of checking and verifying the identity of victims and their needs, using the information compiled by human rights groups as a base.
The group supported weaving cooperatives involving women survivors and ran a café and meeting space, Kedai Fabula, at its office in Palu. In partnership with religious groups and the municipal administration, members of the group organised social activities to involve abuse survivors in the life of the city.
The activities of SKP-HAM Palu is a reminder of what has been lost. It was a trailblazing city whose achievement in human rights advancement provided a model for the rest of the country.
The people of Palu, with a great deal of assistance, will rebuild, but we still wait for more news from the city.
SKP-HAM leader, Lamasitudju, survived the earthquake and tsunami. With a sprained ankle and having lost several family members in the disaster, she is volunteering to collect and provide information regarding the situation in Palu.
Indonesia needs groups like SKP-HAM that campaign for inclusiveness and equal rights to survive into the future.
Dr Vannessa Hearman is a lecturer in Indonesian studies at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory. She is a member of the Asian Studies Association of Australia Council. Charles Darwin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU. Asia Pacific Report republishes this article under a Creative Commons licence.
Indonesian police and military have reportedly attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika and arrested seven people, including three teenagers. Image: Timika KNPB
By Budiarti Utami Putri in Jakarta
Human rights organisation Amnesty International Indonesia has demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo fulfil his promises to resolve the alleged human rights violations in Papua.
Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said Jokowi had earlier pledged to settle the shooting incidents involving civilians in Paniai, Papua.
“We underline one promise, one commitment delivered by President Joko Widodo following the Paniai incident that the President wants the case to be settled to prevent further incident in the future,” said Usman in a plenary meeting with the House of Representative (DPR)’s Legal Commission in the Parliament Complex, Senayan, Jakarta, last week.
Usman said that there was an alleged excessive mobilisation of power and weapons from the security apparatus in Papua.
Between January 2010 and February 2018, Amnesty International Indonesia had recorded 69 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in Papua.
The most dominant perpetrator was the National Police (Polri) officers (34 cases), followed by the Indonesia Armed Forces (TNI) (23 cases), joint officers of TNI and Polri (11 cases) and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in one case.
Custom resolution Usman said a total of 25 cases were not investigated, 26 cases were studied without a conclusive result, and 8 cases were dealh with through custom.
“Usually, it is about certain compensations for the victim’s family,” Usman said.
Usman said this was proof that the government lacked independent, effective, and impartial mechanisms to cope with civilians’ complaints concerning human rights violation performed by the security personnel.
The former coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) urged the government to create measures to resolve the human rights violation in Papua and demanded the government admit the incident and draft procedures for security officers in a bid to prevent violence in the region.
“President Jokowi expects Papua to be a peaceful land,” Usman said.
Meanwhile, the House’s Legal Commission deputy speaker Trimedya Panjaitan pledged to follow up the findings issued by Amnesty International Indonesia to the National Police Chief Tito Karnavian in the upcoming session next week.
“We will ask the police chief in the next meeting on September 24,” Trimedya said.
Timika attack, arrests Meanwhile, Indonesian police and military attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika at the weekend and arrested seven people, including three teenagers, alleged an unverified social media posting.
The arrested people were named as:
Jack Yakonias Womsiwor (39) Nus Asso (46) Urbanus Kossay (18) Herich Mandobar (18) Pais Nasia (23) Vincent Gobay (19) Titus Yelemaken (46)
This Tempo article is shared through the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN).
MONDAY – just three days before today’s World Press Freedom Day – was the deadliest day for news media in Afghanistan in 17 years. The killing of nine journalists and media workers among 26 people who died in dual suicide bomb attacks in Kabul was the worst day for the press since the fall of the Taliban.
Five other journalists were wounded and a 10th journalist was shot and killed in a separate attack outside the capital.
It was the also the most horrendous day for global media too since the Ampatuan massacre on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao on 23 November 2009. A shocking 32 journalists were murdered that day, most of the total death toll of 58 in an ambush on a pre-election cavalcade.
To date nobody has been successfully brought to justice. The scores of private militia “owned” by the Ampatuan family alleged to have carried out the killings have got away with their vile crime almost scot-free.
However, some suspects have been detained and others are out on bail.
High-powered weapons Twenty two high-powered weapons were handed in by the local mayor of an Ampatuan clan bringing the number of 439 firearms either “recovered or surrendered in Maguindanao and Sultan Kuarat in the past four months.
The Ampatuans handed over nine M79 grenade launchers, six Barret rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a mortar, an M16-A1 rifle, a Garand rifle, one Uzi and one carbine.
“It’s supposed to be the trial of the century. Yet eight years later, no convictions have been made in the Maguindanao massacre cases … the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines,” writes Rappler journalist Sofia Tomacruz.
Asia-Pacific has clearly become the most dangerous region for journalists. More specifically, South Asia, according to a new International Federation of Journalists report that is being launched today.
The latest attacks underscore the global targeting of journalists and the impunity that most of their killers enjoy.
‘Justice is elusive’ “In most of the cases of killing of journalists in South Asia, justice is elusive, says the IFJ.
“The 33 journalist colleagues whom we lost this year add to a long list of hundreds of slain journalists awaiting justice after being killed for carrying out their professional duties. The struggle for justice is a challenging process, and in many cases the process doesn’t even begin.”
“Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies,” says the media freedom agency.
The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving, says RSF.
Assassination threat In the Philippines (falling six places to 133rd in the RSF World Press Freedom Index), President Rodrigo Duterte “not only constantly insults reporters but has also [has] warned them that they ‘are not exempted from assassination’.”
In India (down two places to 138th), “hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay”.
In both countries, says RSF, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year – and a Filipino radio journalist, Edmund Sestoso, of DyGB 91.7FM in Dumaguete City, died on Tuesday after being shot by motorcycle gunman on April 30.
Also in the Philippines, encouraged by the aggressively anti-media stance of their president, the Congress initiated a “good news only” clampdown on the media reporting about the lawmakers barely a week before Media Freedom Day.
Reporters in the House of Representatives have protested against the new media accreditation rules that demand only positive coverage of the Congress, the lawmakers and its officials.
A 19-page draft policy statement distributed by the accrediting agency Press and Public Affairs Bureau (PPAB) says it seeks to ban journalists who “besmirch the reputation” of Congress, its officials and members.
Breaching a proposed six-point list of violations will mean cancellation of a journalist’s press identity card and being barred from covering Congress.
The biggest climbs were by Fiji (up 10 places to 57th), New Zealand (five places to 8th) -back into the top 10 globally – and Timor-Leste three places to 95th. Solomon Islands was unranked while Australia remained on 19th (mainly due to the concentrated media ownership in that country). Other Oceania nations were not cited.
This is especially surprising about Vanuatu, where the local newspaper Vanuatu Daily Post has been a leading example of press freedom and courageous journalism for a few years.
Although interest remains high about West Papua in the Pacific, the region is “lost” in the RSF ranking for Indonesia (which remains unchanged at 124th). President Joko Widodo is accused of “breaking his campaign promises” with his presidency marked by “serious media freedom violations, including drastically restricting media access to the Papua and West Papua provinces (the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea), where violence against local journalists continues to grow”. In Fiji, where the “chill” factor is still strong, the big test will come with the second post-coup election likely to be in September.
While acknowledging a modest freeing up of the media with the 2014 election, RSF says: “The media are nonetheless still restricted by the draconian 2010 Media Industry Development Decreeand the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) that it created. Violating the decree is punishable by up to two years in prison and the MIDA’s independence is questionable.”
However, New Zealand should not be too smug about its return to favour in the top 10 of world press freedom nations (due to the Commerce Commission’s rejection of the proposed merger of Fairfax and NZME with the threat to plurality).
RSF says there are still political pressures: “The media continue to demand changes to the Official Information Act, which obstructs the work of journalists by allowing government agencies a long time to respond to information requests and even makes journalists pay several hundred dollars for the information.”
While the threats to media freedom in Oceania remain fairly benign compared with much of the rest of the world, vigilance is needed.
And there is a challenge to journalism schools in New Zealand and the Pacific. They ought to put far more resources and teaching strategies into addressing how to keep young journalists safe in an increasingly hostile world for the media.
David Robie is convenor of the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project. This article was also written for Asia Pacific Report.
Report by Dr David Robie – Café Pacific.A press freedom protest in the Philippines capital of Manila over the latest killing of a radio journalist this week. Image: RSF
By David Robie MONDAY – just three days before today’s World Press Freedom Day – was the deadliest day for news media in Afghanistan in 17 years. The killing of nine journalists and media workers among 26 people who died in dual suicide bomb attacks in Kabul wasThis article was first published on Café Pacific.
Headline: ICC withdrawal ‘a principled stand’, claims Philippines’ Foreign Secretary
By Paterno Esmaquel II in Manila
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano claims the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court is “a principled stand” as nongovernmental organisations and politicians supposedly use human rights for political ends.
“The political NGOs and the politicians have taken over human rights,” Cayetano has told GMA News anchor Jessica Soho.
“Now it’s being used in politics. But this is a principled stand,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced earlier on Wednesday that the Philippines would withdraw from the ICC “effective immediately.”
In his interview with GMA News, Cayetano explained that withdrawing from the ICC was “not a way of evading” an ICC probe into Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
Cayetano said that even if the Philippines withdraws from the ICC, the court still had jurisdiction over the things the Philippines did when it was a member.
Additionally, he pointed out that withdrawing from the ICC “has been in informal discussions ever since,” even when he was still a senator during Duterte’s term.
‘Internal conflict’ The Philippines’ top diplomat recalled that during the time of then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the military did not want the Philippines to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC.
The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute during the time of then president Benigno Aquino III. One of those who pushed for this ratification was human rights lawyer Harry Roque, now Duterte’s spokesman.
“Now the President sees that there is internal conflict, like what happened in Marawi, et cetera. And that’s the same reason that the US, China, Russia did not sign or did not ratify it. The US signed but did not ratify it,” Cayetano said.
Read an excerpt from Cayetano’s interview below:
“The political NGOs and the politicians have taken over human rights eh. So ang problema hindi na katulad dati na prinsipyo talaga sa human rights. Sa ngayon ginagamit sa politika. But this is a principled stand. Ayaw nating maging hipokrito, na ang malalaking bansa hindi sumali dito.
“But to prove that it’s not a way of evading or getting away from the consequences or the jurisdiction ng ICC or nangyari na, even if mag-withdraw tayo, covered pa rin ‘yung actions natin when we were a member.
“So sa mga nagsasabi, ayaw lang ni Presidente maging liable dito, he’s not doing it for himself, kasi we still have obligations during that time. It’s really for the soldiers, the police, and to make a stand sa ating mundo na you know, huwag ‘nyong ipolitika ang human rights.”
Headline: Robredo slams extrajudicial killings, online trolls in Rights Day message
Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo wants Filipinos to stand up to human rights violations being done to them. Image: OVP File
By Mara Cepeda in Manila
On the eve of Human Rights Day, Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo called on Filipinos to stand up against all forms of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs, and the oppression of free speech by online trolls.
This was the message of the former human rights lawyer for Human Rights Day, celebrated worldwide today.
“Ang Araw ng Karapatang Pantao ngayong taon ay hindi lamang pagbabalik-tanaw sa ating kontribusyon sa labang ito. Dapat din nating bigyang-diin ang diwa ng pagdiriwang na ito, dahil sa mga nakababahalang balita tungkol sa malawakang paglabag sa karapatang pantao, lalo na sa mga nasa laylayan ng lipunan,” said Robredo.
(Human Rights day this year is not only a time to remember our contributions to this fight. We should commemorate this day because of the disturbing news on the widespread human rights violations that are happening now, especially against people who are on the fringes of society.)
The Vice-President said Filipinos have experienced cases of human rights abuses in the past year.
“Hinahamon ng kasalukuyang panahon ang bawat isa sa atin na paigtingin ang paninindigan para sa karapatang pantao, sa harap ng pinagdaan ng Pilipino nitong nakalipas na taon. Kasama na rito ang mga extrajudicial killings, ang pagsupil sa karapatang magpahayag, pati na sa social media, at ang kahirapan na patuloy na pumipilay sa milyun-milyon nating mga kababayan,” she said.
(We are being challenged by the times to strengthen our fight to uphold human rights, in the face of everything Filipinos experienced in the past year. These include extrajudicial killings, oppression of free speech even on social media, and poverty that continues to cripple millions of our countrymen.)
Robredo is a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, where thousands of drug suspects have been killed in legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings nationwide.
The Vice-President is also against the tactics of online trolls, who use social media to swarm on critics of the President. Robredo herself has been a longtime target of these trolls and government propagandists.
She had called fake news spreaders as “unapologetic,” “arrogant,” and an “insult” to other government officials who do their job well.
Standing up to a ‘bully’ Human rights groups echoed Robredo’s message. The In Defence of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) condemned “in the strongest terms” the Duterte administration’s “anti-human rights policies and actions”.
They also said the killings of activist priest Marcelito Paez of the Rural Missionary in Nueva Ecija and Datu Victor Danyan of South Cotabato “creates a chilling effect that no one is safe and that anyone who gets in his way will be silenced.
“The President’s utter disrespect towards democracy and rule of law is showing no pretense to exhibit his authoritarian streak by denying the voices of dissent. His government is destroying the generations of progress on the respect and protection of human rights in the guise of war on drugs and terror,” said iDEFEND and PAHRA in a statement.
The human rights groups said they hold the Duterte administration accountable “for the systematic violence against human rights defenders.
“But we all know that a person obsessed with power will never listen. Often the bully takes pleasure in seeing a victim’s fear. The only way to stop a tyrant is by standing up firmly together. The only thing necessary for the triumph of tyranny is for us to do nothing,” they said.
Newly formed group Artikulo Trese even held a fun run and a symposium on extrajudicial killings on Saturday.
“We are people of God –a caring and loving society; shepherds who should take care of our flock, not slaughter them or feed them to the wolves,” said Artikulo Trese convenor Bishop Deogracias Iñiquez.
“Everyone deserves due process, even the most ruthless of criminals,” he added.
Climate change and human rights Senator Loren Legarda, meanwhile, said it was also important for the Philippines to pursue climate justice internationally because Filipinos’ human rights are curtailed by the negative effects of climate change.
Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on climate change, said in her Human Rights Day message that the Philippines must strengthen its demand for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement by 2020.
“We always need to contextualise the discussion on climate change with the issue of human rights. We cannot truly address climate change if we do not recognize the fact that climate change impinges on our very basic human rights, such as access to food, water, shelter, livelihood, and the right to life itself,” said Legarda.
“Compared to industrialised countries, the Philippines barely contributes to global warming, and yet we bear its brunt.
“Every year, millions of families get displaced, thousands of lives and livelihoods are lost, and billions worth of agriculture and infrastructure are damaged because of climate change. It is time that we seek justice for these tragedies,” she added.