Philippines among deadliest nations for journalists

By Artemio Dumlao, The Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 20 2013 02:15 AM | Updated as of Dec 20 2013 10:15 AM

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Philippines has been listed among the five "deadliest countries for media" in 2013, with gunmen riding on motorcycles as the most common method of killing journalists.

In its annual roundup released Wednesday, Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) said Syria, Somalia and Pakistan retained their 2012 positions and were joined in the list by India and the Philippines.

India and the Philippines replaced Mexico and Brazil, although the number of journalists killed in Brazil (five) was the same as last year. Two journalists were killed in Mexico, while three others disappeared.

The RSF cited “hit-men on motorcycles” killing eight journalists in the Philippines.

RSF cited The STAR’s editorial on the method of killing journalists in the Philippines.

“The motorcycle has become the getaway vehicle of choice for the murderers of journalists and militants, robbers of banks and armored vans, and even petty snatchers. Most of the crimes are committed during daytime, when heavy traffic allows crooks on motorcycles to elude pursuing police cars.”

Private militias, corrupt politicians’ thugs and contract killers continue to threaten and kill journalists with complete impunity, the RSF said in its report.

With eight media personnel murdered in the Philippines in 2013, “less than 10 percent of these killings lead to convictions.”

RSF rued few cases are solved because “the judges are usually unable or unwilling to do their job.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the country has maintained its tag as the “third worst country for working journalists” by the New York-based International Federation of Journalists.

Since President Aquino assumed office in 2010, 19 journalists have been killed.

Some 80 journalists were killed during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, six under Joseph Estrada, 11 under Fidel Ramos, and 21 during Corazon Aquino’s term.

Even with the so-called restoration of democracy 27 years ago via the bloodless revolt in 1986, a total 137 journalists were killed.

The peak came in 2009 in the Ampatuan massacre, which has been called the single most horrifying mass murder of journalists in recorded history.

The RSF Annual Index also said the regions with the largest numbers of journalists killed are Asia with 24, the Middle East and North Africa with 23.

The number of journalists killed in sub-Saharan Africa fell sharply, from 21 in 2012 to 10 in 2013 – due to the fall in the number of deaths in Somalia (from 18 in 2012 to 7 in 2013).

Latin America saw a slight fall (from 15 in 2012 to 12 in 2013), the index noted.

At least 39 percent of the deaths of journalists occurred in conflict zones, defined as Syria, Somalia, Mali, the Indian province of Chhattisgarh, the Pakistani province of Balochistan and the Russian republic of Dagestan.

The other journalists were killed in bombings, by armed groups linked to organized crime, by Islamist militias, by police or other security forces, or on the orders of corrupt officials, the report said.

Of the 71 journalists killed in 2013, 37 percent worked for the print media, 30 percent for radio stations, 30 percent for TV and three percent for news websites.

The overwhelming majority of 69 percent of the victims were men.

Although the number of journalists killed in connection with their work in 2013 fell by 20 percent compared with 2012, it was described as an “exceptionally deadly” year with a total of 88 killed.