In response to calls from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Publishers Association of the Philippines Inc., the news media staged demonstrations on the eve of International Human Rights Day today in protest against the 13 murders of journalists that have occurred this year in the archipelago.
Journalists throughout the country left their offices for 15 minutes at 3 p.m. in a show of respect for their slain colleagues. At the same time, radio stations supporting the protest observed two minutes of silence. A joint editorial was published in newspapers and read out on radio and TV stations throughout the day.
"The Philippine press will remember 2004 as a year of infamy", some 300 journalists and press groups said in a pooled statement. "With every murder of a journalist, or a judge, an environmentalist, an anti-corruption activist, a human rights worker - democracy dies a little", they said. "There has been no single conviction for a journalist’s murder since 1986", the statement added.
A second journalist murdered within one week
Reporters Without Borders expressed its deep concern after a second journalist was murdered within one week in the Philippines, the 13th to be killed this year.
Reporter Stephen Omais was found dead on 27 November 2004, near the city of Tabuk in Kalinga Province in the north of the country.
Appalled at this series of killings, the worldwide press freedom organisation called on the government to "urgently come up with some fresh approaches to halt this wave of violence against the press".
Omais, who worked for the provincial bi-weekly Guru Press and local public radio DZRK, was apparently killed on 26 November 2004. His body was discovered the following day with several head injuries apparently caused by stones found near the corpse. His family identified him a few days later.
A colleague at Guru Press, Estefania Kollin, said she had last seen Omais two weeks previously. He had been investigating a government public works project after which staff at the newspaper had received death threats.
The provincial governor and the police chief of Kalinga Province offered a reward of 20,000-pesos (about 270 euros) for information leading to the identity of Omais’s killer.
Police are questioning a friend of the murder victim and a cycle-rickshaw driver. Director General of the national police Edgar Aglipay said a suspect had been arrested on 3 December. He was Joey Patalig, 32, a professor at Tabuk Central School. No evidence of his guilty has yet been produced.
Reporters Without Borders called on the authorities to keep national and international organisations for the protection of journalists informed about any progress in the investigations.