TREVOR ISBELL WRITES – With the deaths of Filipino journalists on the rise, the country’s free press system is in jeopardy.
Responding to the killings of 14 journalists last year, President Aquino claims the solution lies in strict law enforcement, gun control and an efficient judicial system. Sadly, none of these has been part of his juridical arsenal. In particular, given the recent situation with the Pork-Barrel scandal and the legal proceedings that followed, relying on an “efficient judicial system” may be a bold and foolhardy strategy.
And it’s not as if the world hasn’t noticed. Next to Iran and Syria, the Philippines has just been listed as the third most dangerous country for journalists. Despite this, Aquino refuses to acknowledge the situation as a national caalamity. While he believes law enforcement to be one of the primary solutions to this problem, critics say the police themselves are part of the problem, by intentionally doctoring downward the number of media deaths.
Allegedly, the government has recently changed how it compiles its account of fatalities by restricting the numbers to only those who fit within a strict definition of “work-related” journalist deaths. By this definition, the death of a journalist only qualifies for the toll if the killing was directly related to journalistic work. This allows premeditated murders of off duty journalists to go unaccounted for. Many believe these policies suggest the police are attempting to obscure the terrifying reality of the situation at hand.
If this is the case, President Aquino has a long way to go before he is ready to sufficiently battle these assaults on free press with nothing but a “strict law enforcement and an efficient judicial system.”