Despite President Aquino’s vow to solve the impunity in the murders of journalists, the Philippines ranked third worst worldwide for the fourth consecutive year, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday to mark World Press Freedom Day.
In its annual Impunity Index, the media rights group ranked the Philippines third behind Iraq and Somalia, but ahead of Sri Lanka, Colombia, Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria and India.
The Philippines actually has more cases of unsolved journalist murders than Somalia, but it scored higher because of its larger population. The Philippines had 0.580 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants in the Impunity Index, virtually the same as last year’s rating of 0.589.
“Fifty-five journalist murders have gone unsolved in the past decade,” the CPJ said in its item on the Philippines.
“The 2011 Ortega murder reflects the politically inspired nature of the large majority of Philippine killings, along with the general breakdown in the rule of law that has allowed the killings to continue,” the group added.
Gerardo Ortega, a Palawan broadcaster who exposed corruption, was shot in the back of the head while shopping in Puerto Princesa City. Police arrested suspects and traced the murder weapon to an aide of Gov. Joel Reyes.
But the case suffered a severe blow earlier this year when an alleged conspirator who had turned state witness was killed in prison.
“The insecurity of witnesses is a key problem in addressing impunity. Authorities in the Philippines have yet to make headway in the prosecution of dozens of suspects in a politically motivated massacre in Maguindanao that claimed the lives of more than 50 people, including 32 journalists,” it added.
Three witnesses in the Maguindanao case have themselves been murdered, one of them dismembered and mutilated.
Each time a witness is killed, “it affects the morale of other witnesses by showcasing how inept the government is in ensuring their safety,” says Ortega’s wife Michaella.
But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Aquino administration has supposedly moves to stop the killing of journalists after the President created an inter-agency task force, headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, to look into the killings.
“We will continue our efforts to stop the impunity against journalists, the extralegal killings,” Lacierda said, adding that the government is also looking at the motives of the killings to determine whether they stem from a victim’s work as a journalist.
“When we look into each particular incident, we look into the motives also to segregate what was politically motivated or what other reasons led to the deaths,” Lacierda said.
The CPJ said Nigeria has become one of the worst nations in the world for deadly, unpunished violence against the press and also found soaring impunity rates in Somalia, Pakistan, and Brazil.
CPJ’s analysis found improving conditions in Nepal, which dropped off the index entirely, and in Russia, which has had one of the world’s most deeply entrenched cultures of impunity.
Although both nations remain dangerous for the press, both have seen a general decline in deadly anti-press violence and a handful of partly successful prosecutions in journalist murders.