Journalists in the Philippines pay a high price for their outspokenness, with the year marked by seven murders and as many murder attempts, Despite throwing more resources into the battle against this violence, the government is struggling to rebuild confidence. President Gloria Arroyo, weakened by a series of scandals, tried to stop the press from doing its job of safe-guarding democracy.
Former police officer Guillermo Wapile was on 29 November 2005 sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2002 murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio. This triumph over impunity was overshadowed by the murder three days later of young radio journalist George Benaojan on Cebu island.
After Iraq, the Philippines is the most dangerous country for journalists. They are murdered, as was Marlene Esperat in March, for investigating corruption, but also for their forthright criticism of local authorities. The journalist Philip Agustin was shot down on the orders of the mayor of Dingalan who had had enough of his attacks.
These murders are often preceded by text message threats or the sending of macabre packages. The publisher of a political magazine, Glenda Gloria, had a funeral wreath delivered to her home in August with the message, “From your faithful friends”.
Politicians and officials exposed by the local press use other less radical methods to silence their critics. In 2005, at least five journalists, including Raffy Tulfo, writer of the “Shoot to kill” section of a local newspaper, were given prison sentences for defamation. Elsewhere four media were closed, like dxVR FM radio which had its licence withdrawn in July by the mayor of a town on Mindanao island.
Grappling with communist and Islamist guerrillas, the government, under pressure from the army, included a ban on press interviews with “terrorist groups” in its controversial anti-terror legislation.