Rights watchdog says Philippines fails to protect journalists
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Rights watchdog says Philippines fails to protect journalists

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) again condemned the Philippine government for its failure to stop media killings in the country in its latest annual report.

“Twelve journalists were killed in 2013, bringing the total number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed to 26 since President Benigno Aquino III took office in June 2010,” HRW said in a press release.

On an annual average, the number of victims of media killings under the Aquino government is now the highest since human rights and media groups began monitoring attacks against members of the Philippine press.

HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine also said, “The body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground.”

In its 667-page World Report 2014 on human rights situation around the globe, HRW said the failure of the government to arrest, prosecute and convict perpetrators of media killings and human rights abuses has reinforced the continuing climate of fear and culture of impunity in the Philippines.

“The Philippine government failed to match its rhetoric in support of human rights in 2013 with meaningful action to end impunity for extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances,” the said report stated.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines said 2013 was one of the deadliest years for members of the Philippine press with 12 killed, three of them within a span of one week.

It was topped only by the infamous Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009 where 32 journalists and media workers were brutally gunned down.

NUJP chair Rowena Paraan said 2014 could be another worrisome year for media workers as suspects in media killings continue to walk the streets.

“We look back at 2013 with sorrow and look forward to the New Year with hope yet, at the same time, a justified worry that 2014 will portend more of the same bloodshed and impunity, apathy and hostility as the year we are leaving behind,” Paraan said in a post in the group’s Facebook account.

She also hit out at President Benigno Aquino III for dismissing the situation as ‘”not so serious” and for “whining on negativism” in the Philippine media.

Of the 26 journalists and media workers killed under the Aquino administration, only six cases involved the arrest of suspects and only two of those arrested were convicted, according to HRW.

The human rights watchdog highlighted the creation of a government super body to look into human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings, which so far has done nothing to change the situation on the ground.

“A much-vaunted initiative by the government to address impunity – the creation in 2012 of a so-called ‘superbody’ to expedite the investigation and prosecution of cases of extrajudicial killings – remained inactive during much of 2013 even as new cases were reported by domestic human rights groups,” HRW further said.