Philippine journalist declared 58th victim of 2009 massacre

Philippine journalist declared 58th victim of 2009 massacre

The announcement by Philippine authorities came in the same week that two journalists were threatened and attacked in separate incidents, prompting concerns about media freedom
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A mourner shows concern for the lives of journalists in a 2010 file photo from a memorial service held for the victims of the 2009 massacre. (AFP)


Authorities in the Philippines confirmed on Wednesday that a journalist has been declared the 58th victim of a massacre which took place in 2009.   

Court official, Jimmy Cardines explained that the previously missing person Reynaldo Momay was officially declared a victim of the slaughter after dentures found at the site of a mass grave were finally identified as belonging to him.  

"The court has formally received information from state prosecutors about a 58th murder victim," Cardines told AFP.

The photographer for the local Midland Review has now become one of the 31 journalists killed in the massacre, which was allegedly carried out by the governing family of the southern province of Maguindanao to prevent opposition from standing against them.

Nestor Burgos from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said: “While this belongs to the category of bad news, what is important is that his family can now obtain justice.”

Some 75 members of the clan are currently standing trial for the mass murder, but legal proceedings are expected to take years to complete.  However, 94 other suspects are still on the run.

Journalists assaulted and harassed

The news came in the same week that two journalists were subjected to assault and harassment in separate incidents, raising questions once more about the safety of journalists and press freedom in a country where six journalists have already been killed this year

On Tuesday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed that Roberto Labalan, editor of the weekly tabloid Sorsogon Now, and national director and Sorsogon chapter chairman of the NUJOP, and Ramil Marianito, station manager of Radio Natin and WOW FM both complained to the police about events which took place on Sunday.

Labalan was allegedly assaulted by Joseph Yap III, brother of the mayor of Prieto-Diaz, Jocelyn Yap-Lelis at a media forum in a coffee shop.  According to reports, Yap had taken offence at an article the journalist had published about irregularities related to a road project for which he was the contractor.

The writer said that Yap attacked him while he was speaking to other members of the media at a forum which was also attended by the Governor of Sorsogon, Raul Lee.

After asking “Why did you hit me in your newspaper?” Yap proceeded to punch the journalist in the face.

The Sorsogon Press Association has condemned the attack and described it as an assault on press freedom.

They also called on authorities to investigate the incident, adding that Yap had been observed in possession of a firearm at the time.

“This incident is yet one more example of how impunity perpetuates itself in this country, courtesy of a system of governance that relies on political expediency and family ties,” read a statement from the NUJOP.

This is why journalists around the country and most especially in the provinces continue to be harassed, threatened, assaulted and killed with hardly anyone called to account.  And while we’re at it, this, too, is why corruption continues to flourish,” it added.

On Sunday, fellow journalist Marianito complained to the police after being harassed by six unidentified men on three motorcycles.  He claimed that one of the bikes had overtaken him and the rider had threatened him with a handgun as he drove home with his family and colleagues.  Marianito said that he was then threatened by another rider and pursued by the men until they suddenly disappeared.

The journalist said that while threats for members of his profession are common in the Philippines, the fact that his children were in the car at the time made Sunday’s incident particularly traumatic.

Journalists are regularly subjected to threats of violence or even death in the Philippines, which was rated by Reporters Without Borders as the 140th country out of 179 on last year’s World Press Freedom Index.



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