Journalists Urge PGMA to Stop Media Killings

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“Stopping journalists’ killing could be your legacy,” a multinational Southeast Asian journalists’ mission told President Arroyo Tuesday.The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) mission, which visited the Philippines from March 21 to 24 to mark the fourth anniversary of the killing of Sultan Kudarat journalist Marlene Esperat said: “Given the prevailing sense of urgency in the impunity issue and in anticipation of an increase in the number of journalists being killed as the 2010 presidential election draws closer, we call upon President Arroyo to take the steps necessary to prevent that unfortunate development.“Madame President, a halt to the killing of journalists as well as political dissenters would be one the enduring legacies you can leave the Filipino people as your term ends,” the Thailand-based organization said.SEAPA member-organizations include the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, in addition to Indonesian and Thai journalists’ groups.The SEAPA in its end-of-mission statement expressed alarm over the “continuing killing of media workers in the Philippines and the inadequate measures the government is taking to stop them.”“We note with concern that despite intensified efforts by civil society and Philippine media groups themselves to convince the government, its law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to address the issue of impunity and the killings, the murders, a majority of which occur in the provinces, have been continuing.”“An average of five journalists has been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 2001 when the Arroyo administration came to power. By the end of February 2009, the count of slain journalists had gone up to 78 since the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, according to statistics compiled by the Philippine-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.”Earlier, the Philippines has maintained its no. 6 rank in the list of 14 countries “where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes” according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index for 2009 which "calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population."The Philippines, which is a peacetime democracy, outranks Afghanistan and Pakistan where there are armed conflicts.The team members of the SEAPA mission also expressed fear that the killing and harassment of journalists in the Philippines could spread to other countries unless stopped.“One of the reasons we came to the Philippines on the eve of the 4th death anniversary of Marlene Esperat was because we believe that the culture of impunity that is deeply-rooted in the Philippines could be replicated in other countries in the region unless there is a common effort to dismantle it in the Philippines. …