Manila welcomes impunity index ranking on press freedom

Despite remaining fifth worst in CPJ's rankings Philippine govt takes heart by 'improved status'
Manila welcomes impunity index ranking on press freedom

Activists hold a demonstration in Manila to protest what they described as "culture of impunity" in the killings of journalists in the Philippines. (Photo by Basilio Sepe) reporter, Manila
November 2, 2018
The Philippines welcomed what officials described was the country's "improved ranking in this year's Global Impunity Index on press freedom based on a report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The Global Impunity Index report, which was released in time for the observance of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on Nov. 2, calculates the number of unsolved murders of journalists as a percentage of each country's population.   

The Philippines ranked fifth this year on an index topped by Somalia followed by Syria, Iraq and South Sudan.

It remains ahead of Afghanistan in sixth spot, followed by Mexico, Colombia, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and India.

Joel Sy Egco, head of the government's Presidential Task Force on Media Security welcomed the Philippines' "improved status," saying that it was "an interesting development."

"We note with optimism that the Philippines, while remaining at its 2017 ranking as fifth, was noted to have improved its status," said Egco.

From 2011 to 2014, the Philippines ranked third on the list before improving to fourth in 2015 and 2016. Last year, the country moved into fifth place.

The CPJ report noted that at least 324 journalists have been killed worldwide in the past decade with 85 percent of the cases remaining unsolved.

"The fact that impunity continues to thrive in many of these countries year after year is a disturbing sign of how deeply rooted the problem is," according to Elisabeth Witchel, author of the report and CPJ's consultant for the Global Campaign Against Impunity.

The report noted the ratings got worse in Syria, Mexico, Brazil and India but improved in the Philippines, Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan, Pakistan, Russia and Nigeria.

The CPJ listed 40 unsolved killings in the Philippines from 2008 to 2018.

Egco said he would have to clarify the 40 unsolved cases because 32 were victims of the so-called Maguindanao massacre nine years ago, implying there were only eight cases.

"We are going to write to the CPJ and clarify what the other eight cases are," Egco said.

He said his office has already recorded 11 convictions in cases of work-related media killings since 2008.

The 11th annual CPJ report highlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.

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All 14 of the countries featured this year have appeared multiple times on the index since CPJ began collecting data in 2008, and half have appeared every year. 

In the Philippines, the Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23, 2009, was touted as the single deadliest attack against the media in history, where 58 people, including 32 journalists, were killed.

No one has been convicted for the massacre out of the 197 accused.

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