Culture of violence

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The Paris-based press freedom watch group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF–Reporters Without Borders) seemed perplexed last December, 2004. As the year ended with one more journalist in the Philippines shot dead, it said that, “for some still unclear reason,” more journalists seem likely to be killed in 2005.

RSF’s perplexity was understandable. Philippine democracy was supposedly restored in 1986, and the Philippine Constitution of 1987–one of the few in the world to do so–forbids the passage of any law abridging press freedom. Continue reading

Hostages to incompetence

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After congratulating themselves and each other, and receiving accolades from the President of the Republic herself, the police authorities in this country have themselves suggested that there’s nothing anyone should really be congratulating them for.

That much was implicit in their warnings– following the Taguig incident in which the police killed 22 Muslims of whom some were armed with handguns– that in retaliation the Abu Sayyaf will go on a bombing spree in metro Manila. Continue reading

Cycle of violence

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Twelve leaders and members of left-wing party list groups have so far been killed in Northern and Central Luzon over the last few weeks, while five more have been abducted by unknown persons. The killings have become noticeable for their frequency lately, but have actually been going on for at least two years.

Among the recent dead are a priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (more commonly known as the Aglipayan Church) and a Tarlac city councilor. An average of one Bayan Muna leader, member or supporter has been killed every ten days, says Bayan Muna party-list representative Teodoro “Teddy” Casino, who, together with fellow BM representative Satur Ocampo, has asked Congress to look into the killings and for Malacanang to stop them. Continue reading

Blaming cassava

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The truly Christian among us can assume that God didn’t do it, as suggested by Bohol Bishop Christian Noel–whose very name resonates with piety, and who should have known better.

Noel implied that God killed the 27 children of Mabini, Bohol, who died after eating a cassava snack because the Department of Health’s Ligtas Buntis (Safe Pregnancy) program was “not pleasing to God.” Continue reading

Adan’s Eden

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Armed Forces Chief of Staff Efren Abu dissociated the AFP from Deputy Chief of Staff General Edilberto Adan’s proposal to penalize media practitioners for interviewing “known terrorists”. But that has not prevented Adan from accusing “some media” of being “virtual mouthpieces of terrorist groups”, while denying in the same breath that his proposal would abridge press freedom.

Adan told radio listeners last Tuesday that the media must “act responsibly” and “regulate themselves.” General Alan Cabalquinto, Chief of the National Capital Region Command, echoed Adan’s “responsibility” theme, but added that the media could “act responsibly” by helping the police and military capture the “terrorists” reporters interview. Continue reading

Under siege

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Bangkok, Thailand–What’s press freedom for, and why fight for it at all?

Several Burmese journalists attending a basic journalism course in Bangkok asked officials of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) this question during an interview last week. There were no easy answers.

The reason for the journalists’ concern: the killing of journalists in the Philippines, the increasing number of threats against journalists in Indonesia, and the steady erosion of press freedom in Thailand. Continue reading