PHILIPPINES: Justice for Journalists?

MARY GRACE COSTA WRITES– Is killing journalists an act of war? Associated Press president Gary Pruitt believes it is. Last week at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club, Pruitt suggested changes to international laws that would make killing journalists or taking them hostage a war crime, punishable under the 1948 Geneva Convention of Human Rights.

The Office of the Philippine President, however, is a little iffy on this proposal. On Easter Sunday in the Philippines, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. went on a state-run radio station and stressed the importance of free speech. He also told listeners that the State is working tirelessly to ensure a safe environment for media professionals. However, he believes Pruitt’s proposal needs closer inspection.

“On [killing journalists] being a war crime,” Coloma, Jr. said, “perhaps this needs deeper study. This is not something we can understand with just one examination, perhaps it needs more in-depth examination.”

Pruitt reminded his peers in Hong Kong that working for the press used to afford media professionals a degree of protection, but now such a label is “more likely to make them a target.” Recall Kenji Goto, the Japanese journalist beheaded by ISIS in January.

The Philippines is notorious for being a hostile work environment for the press and has been called the “third most dangerous for journalists.” The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility reports the deaths of 219 journalists since the restoration of democracy in 1986, 26 under the Aquino Administration alone. Just this past February, a journalist named Maurito Lim was fatally shot in Bohol, Philippines.

This is not to say that the Philippine government supports acts of violence against the media, however. The Communications Secretary maintained that the government indeed values the lives of journalists.

A statement by Coloma Jr. sums up the government’s stance: “We are prepared to implement steps toward stronger protection being extended to legitimate and professional journalists who use their freedom [of expression].”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.