Was Philippines ever a safe country for Journalists?

When President-elect Rodrigo Duterte was asked during a press conference on how he will uphold press freedom and the safety of journalists, his answer was rather unexpected. “Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong” and “Even if you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a b****” he had said.

This shook the world of media, raising eyebrows of many and igniting the anger of some. Local and even international media outlets released their own statements expressing their arguments and concern.

This leaves the concern over the safety for journalists all around the nation, but the real question is: was Philippines ever a safe country for Journalists?

Journalist killings have plagued the country even after the dictator government toppled. The rebirth of democracy under President Corazon Aquno in 1986 didn’t stop these murders.

During her six years in office, 21 journalists died. His successor, Fidel Ramos, saw the death of 11 journalists. Then, in the short, three-year term of Joseph Estrada, 6 journalists were slain.

At the turn of the millennium, President Gloria Arroyo became president. Months before the end of her 9-year term, an unfortunate event happened that became known all over the world as the single worst case of violence against media: the Maguindanao massacre, where 32 members of the media were vehemently killed.  Combining these numbers with other cases, 80 journalists were killed under Arroyo’s watch.

And now, President Benigno Aquino’s term is coming to an end. During his presidency, 34 journalists were killed with an average of 6.9 cases per year. Putting aside the death toll from the Maguindanao massacre for it is a special case, Arroyo’s administration has an average of 5.05 cases per year.

Whereas, Aquino’s six years in office is considered by many media experts as one of the deadliest time for journalists since the 1986. Just recently, a tabloid reporter was shot in cold blood on Quiapo, Manila.

Altogether, from 1986 the death toll rises to 152, and may still grow more, God forbid. Approximately 36% of the victims are columnists/commentators, 29% are print reporters or writers, and 25% are broadcast reporters, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit organization which aims to protect newsmen throughout the world.

PH Media Killings

The question is left for you to answer.

By the time Duterte assumes the presidency, it will be 2,385 days since the Ampatuan Massacre. In the incoming Administration, the best we can do is have faith that there will not be another Media Killing, especially a Massacre at that matter.

On a hopeful note, Duterte’s spokesperson revealed that there was a plan to create a special taskforce to go after the masterminds of journalist killings, similar to his advocacy to clean the country of drugs and corruption. Right now, the country is either at the mercy of gunpoint or under the strict rule of law. (Luke Godoy)

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