IFJ Joins London Call on President Arroyo to Stamp out Impunity in the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists in Great Britain and Ireland (NUJ), joined the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines and Amnesty International at a rally yesterday at the Human Rights Action Centre in London to mark 100 days since the massacre of 23 November 2009, which left 57 people dead, including 32 journalists in the southern province of Maguindanao in the Philippines.

“The Arroyo government is responsible for allowing a culture of impunity to grow over the past decade that created the conditions in which the Ampatuan Town massacre could take place,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

The IFJ is particularly critical of the decision to promote General Alfred Cayton to deputy commander of the Philippine army within weeks of him refusing a military escort for the convoy that was subsequently massacred. Victims’ families have since launched a civil action against General Cayton

“This promotion not only rewards a fatal act of gross negligence, but also makes clear the government’s determination not to investigate the role and responsibility of the military in this massacre,” added Boumelha.
The IFJ is also critical of President Arroyo’s vaguely-worded Executive Order 546 issued in 2006 which allowed the use of neighbourhood-watch type armed “force multipliers,” or Civilian Volunteer Organisations, in counterinsurgency operations. These, in practice, effectively supported paramilitary groups and legalised private armies of politicians and other local strongmen.

The IFJ links the use of private armies to the growing number of extrajudicial killings and disappearances for which nobody has ever been brought to justice. Prior to this massacre, some 104 journalists had met violent deaths since 1984. The murder of the 32 journalists and media workers, along with 25 other victims, is the single worst atrocity against the media and makes the Philippines the most dangerous country for journalists outside Iraq.

The IFJ joins the NUJ UK and the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines in issuing a statement urging the Government of the Philippines to act on its commitment under International Obligations and Actions, including the Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 2006 UN Security Council resolution 1738 that obliges governments to protect journalists in conflict zones.
In particular, the group is demanding that President Arroyo revokes Executive Order 546 which allows militias to operate. With regard to the massacre itself, that Government :

• gives full support to the families of the victims – financial, medical and legal;
• investigates the inaction and alleged collusion of the military structures and commands prior to the massacre;
• gives sufficient resources and independence to prosecutors and the judiciary to guarantee a speedy and effective investigations , trial and crucially guarantees the safety and protection of all witnesses to the massacre and ;
• ensures a safe environment in which media across the country can report on the May 10th election.
For more information, please call the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 125 countries

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