Oct 232014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/02/05MANILA499.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA499
2005-02-01 08:24
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000499

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EAP/PMBS, DRL/CRA, INR/EAP, EAP/PD
NSC FOR GREEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINS PINR SOCI KPAO RP
SUBJECT: INTERNATIONAL TEAM INVESTIGATES SLAYINGS OF
JOURNALISTS IN THE PHILIPPINES

REF: A. MANILA 0312

¶B. 04 MANILA 5775
¶C. 04 MANILA 5220
¶D. 04 MANILA 4331
¶E. 04 MANILA 4251
¶F. 04 MANILA 3999

¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified — please
handle accordingly.

¶2. (SBU) Summary: A fact-finding team organized by the
Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
(NUJP) January 24-31 investigated recent media killings (at
least 13 in 2004). Its initial conclusions are that there is
“a widespread culture of violence” in the Philippines that
allows for killings of those in the media, and that the GRP
effectively condones this violence. During the visit, there
were two more media-related attacks, in which one person was
killed and another severely injured. Mission continues to
urge the GRP to take firm steps to prosecute and convict
those involved in such slayings. End Summary.

¶3. (SBU) A fact-finding team organized by the IFJ and the
NUJP (IFJ’s local affiliate) January 24-31 investigated the
numerous attacks on journalists in 2004. On January 31,
Poloff met with team members Gerard Noonan, a correspondent
for the “Sydney Morning Herald,” and Carlos Conde, local
stringer for “The New York Times” and chief of the NUJP, to
discuss the situation.

¶4. (SBU) According to Noonan and Conde, the five-member
IFJ-NUJP team consisted of journalists from Australia,
Indonesia, and the Philippines and visited General Santos
City in Mindanao, Cebu and Iloilo in the Central Philippines,
and Manila and Legazpi in Luzon. The team met with family
members of victims and representatives from the Philippine
National Police (PNP), the Department of Justice, local
government agencies, and the Commission on Human Rights. The
immediate impetus for the fact-finding mission was the
release of IFJ,s report on worldwide violence against
journalists and others in the media in early January 2005,
which noted that the Philippines had recorded 13 killings of
journalists in 2004, a figure second only to Iraq’s. (Note:
The GRP’s “Task Force Newsmen,” which the GRP created in late
2004 to crack down on the killings, has estimated the number
of media-related slayings in 2004 at 10, based on different
definitions of which killings might have been media-related
and which were not. Other human rights organizations
variously cite between 10 to 13 killings. End note)

¶5. (SBU) The team plans to file its final report in about
two weeks, but its initial conclusion is that &a widespread
of culture of violence” exists in the Philippines and helps
fuel the killings. Mayors in two major cities in the central
and southern part of the country (Cebu, Davao) have been
implicated by human rights organizations in vigilante-style
killings of alleged criminals (reftels). The 2004 national
elections included at least 121 killings during the course of
the campaigns. Published remarks attributed to police and
other influential persons, such as former president Estrada,
have seemed to encourage violence against journalists.
(Estrada recently indicated that he supported attacks similar
to one that totally destroyed a news van in January 2005,
although he said he was not responsible for the initial
torching.) The report will emphasize that such a climate has
“a chilling effect” on working journalists and the practice
of their craft, and threatens freedom of the press in the
Philippines.

¶6. (SBU) Echoing conclusions in the initial report, Noonan
claimed that the GRP’s response has been “completely
unacceptable in a democratic country” like the Philippines.
Despite repeated pledges from GRP officials to bring
perpetrators to justice, courts have convicted only one
person related to any of the estimated 55 killings of
journalists and others in media-related positions since 1986,
he noted. (Note: Other sources have cited two convictions.
End note) Noonan told poloff that he had wanted to discuss
the team’s initial findings with President Arroyo, but her
office could not arrange an appointment due to her “busy
schedule.”

¶7. (U) The IFJ-NUJP investigation took place against a
backdrop of continued media-related violence. On January 29,
two unidentified gunmen shot and severely injured the editor
and publisher of the Tagum City-based “Mindanao Truck News.”
The editor had frequently written commentaries in his regular
column about corruption, poor government services, and
illegal logging. Local police are still investigating the
case; no arrests have been made. On January 26, a technician
at a government-owned radio station in Baguio City was shot
dead while on his way to work. Again, there have been no
arrests so far.

¶8. (SBU) GRP officials have asserted that the GRP is doing
its best. Presidential Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye claimed
publicly that the “majority” of cases involving slayings of
journalists have been “solved” by the “Task Force Newsmen”
and labeled as “misleading” IFJ claims that the Philippines
is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters.
Critics have responded that “solving” cases to the GRP often
means no more than identifying a suspect, not even capture or
arrest, much less conviction.

¶9. (SBU) Comment: Mission continues to urge the GRP to
take firm steps to arrest, prosecute, and convict those
involved in such slayings. While media killings indeed have
had a chilling effect on investigative reporting to some
degree, some courageous journalists continue to investigate
sensitive issues such as corruption. Septel will report on
one notable NGO — the Philippine Center for Investigative
Journalism (PCIJ) — for which Mission will seek to identify
channels of funding to provide support.
Ricciardone

   

 

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