On the eve of International Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders is issuing a report on the impunity enjoyed by the instigators and perpetrators of the murders of journalists in the Philippines. Among the murders examined in the report are those of Marlene Esperat and Edgar Damalerio, in which the instigators have still not been identified.
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers) has released a shocking report on the impunity enjoyed by killers and those who ordered the murders of 52 journalists since the return to democracy in 1986.
Published on the eve of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the report includes in its recommendations a call for the United Nations to send a team to the Philippines to investigate political murders, particularly of journalists.
"Not everything can be explained by the existence of a culture of violence in this country," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "A culture of impunity reigns, for which the highest government authorities are responsible, that has allowed killers and those who send them to murder so many journalists in every corner of the country."
The investigating team, which met the families of murdered journalists, local press freedom organisations and the Philippines’ authorities, especially the justice minister and the director of the national police, focused particularly on the cases of Marlene Esperat, Edgar Damalerio, Edgar Amoro and Noel Villarante.
The death from a bullet to the head on 24 March 2005 of Marlene Esperat, nicknamed "Erin Brockovich" by the Philippines press, has traumatised the journalistic community, many of them women. Even though police have arrested four suspects, the person or persons who ordered the killing have not been identified.
In the same way, those who ordered the murders of Edgar Damalerio and Edgar Amoro - and of two other reporters - in Pagadian, on the west of Mindanao Island, have never been questioned by police. Reporters Without Borders shows in its report that the police and the prosecutors have protected the intermediaries and those who sent the killers.
Solving these cases will be a test for President Gloria Arroyo in the struggle against press freedom violations, corruption and organised crime, it said.
The political will demonstrated recently, with the setting up of the "Newsmen Task Force" within the national police force, should translate into clearing up the 42 unsolved murders of journalists.