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Philippines most dangerous country for journalists:

November 26th, 2009
04:40 AM ET
A crime scene investigator stands near the bodies of some of the victims
A crime scene investigator stands near the bodies of some of the victims

By: Tom Evans; Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR.

The Philippines this year has been the world's most dangerous country for journalists, an official of the advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists told CNN's "Amanpour" program Wednesday.

The killing of at least 18 reporters in a massacre that claimed the lives of almost 60 people this week means the Philippines is now even more hazardous than Iraq for journalists, said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program coordinator

The massacre in the Philippines is the single worst mass killing of journalists in history, according to the CPJ.

The reporters were part of a group of more than 50 unarmed civilians traveling to register a candidate in an upcoming gubernatorial election in the southern province of Maguindanao.

Authorities in the Philippines have now declared a state of emergency in the south of the country and disbanded a government-backed militia suspected of having a role in Monday's massacre. The militia is linked to a powerful clan leader who has ties with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

President Arroyo's spokesman said Wednesday that Arroyo expects arrests "in the next 24 hours." The spokesman said the president is "enraged by these barbaric acts" and has thrown the full force of the law behind the investigation.

A leading journalist in the Philippines, Maria Ressa, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the massacre was a very brazen act that has shocked the country. But violence against journalists is nothing new.//

// "So far, in the last eight years, out of 74 journalists who have been killed, only four cases have found resolution," she added.

"Journalists are starting to come together to try to push for justice in this situation, but so far justice is very slow. They are doing their best to do their jobs, to hold both the public and the private sector accountable in as safe a manner as possible."

Ressa, a former CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief and now managing editor of ABS-CBN in Manila, said attacks on reporters come from many directions, even the government.

"You've got journalists caught in local conflicts. This one is political, election-related violence. You've got clan wars. You've also got the conflict between the insurgents," she said.

But she noted that the rebels in the Mindanao area of the Philippines often change sides and there is also widespread corruption in the police force.

"You have the police, the Philippine National Police, who by day are with the government, but at night they'll take off their hats and then they'll join the private armies of some of these warlords. And that's the difficulty," Ressa said.

She added that there is a culture of impunity in the Philippines, and journalists there have to develop a "sixth sense" to operate in areas where law and order is weak, so they can tell where the danger is coming from even as they continue trying to tell the story of the people who live in those areas.

Her sentiments were echoed by another journalist who works in an extremely violent country, Somalia. Mustafa Haji Abdinur, who is one of the few independent journalists still in Somalia. He said there is a culture of fear. But he added it is a reporter's job to see what's happening and to get the news.

Abdinur, who this week received a top award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, said six journalists have been killed in Somalia this year, including a friend who was gunned down only a few yards from where he was working.

When Amanpour asked Abdinur if he was afraid to go back to Somalia after the CPJ awards ceremony Tuesday night, he said, "There's constant fear. But what I'm going back with is courage."

Filed under:  1
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Tina Koudroglou

    I'm half Greek – half Philippine and consider the Philippines my home as it is where I was born, raised and educated. After the Filipinos were made so proud by the successes of Manny Pacquiao and CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida, the Philippines has sunk so low once more because of the evil that characterises the Arroyo government and her alliances. It honestly hurts when Amanpour says that there exists a culture of violence and impunity in the Philippines. The truth does hurt, but it hurts more for the rest of the Filipinos who are honest, hardworking and law-abiding citizens because they don't deserve the association with the likes of Ampatuan.

    Just think of the millions of Fillipinos who venture abroad – leaving home and loved ones, to work as seafarers, nurses, engineers, etc., so they can send money back to their families? The Philippine economy is practically run on remittences from overseas Filipino workers! Is this the thanks we deserve? I'm disgusted. But in spite of it all, I'm still looking forward to coming home to the Philippines this Christmas to be with my family. I cannot loose hope.

    November 26, 2009 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  2. ara carlos

    actually all radio and tv station all over philippines are mourning for what happened last monday.they wear black for they travel for that place,no firearms and ammo,only to bring the news to people..they trusted the government,to protect them..they believed in peace..but unfortunately they were wrong..very devastating and disappointing isn't it? one of the jounalist in the country says "Mrs. president, tell me who your friends are and ill tell who you are." because the alleged suspect "Ampatuan" is a friend of president arroyo.he's been cought by the militaries,without handcuffsand treated in a vip way..thats totaly bias!

    November 27, 2009 at 12:21 am | Reply
  3. Jun Gravoso

    I watched your show when you interviewed Maria Ressa.

    I take offense of some of your statements. The Philippines is not as dangerous as you pictured it to be. Maguindanao is a remote place in the Philippines and is not the microcosm of the whole archipelago. I've traveled to other countries and my country is relatively peaceful as compared to other countries I visited (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.)

    Why did you not mention in your program that President Arroyo's administration is doing something about it? In fact, the suspect is now in custody and the Chief Prosecutor said that case will be filed in court the soonest?

    You just mentioned that the suspect is linked to the President.

    And that is very bias.

    Please refrain from sensational journalism.

    November 27, 2009 at 12:25 am | Reply
  4. sillysymphony

    This is a very upsetting and disturbing occurence, and the worst thing is, it is going to be dificult to solve this case, since the "suspects" allegedly did a big favor to Gloria Arroyo, when she "miraculously" won over Presidential candidate Fernando Poe,Jr, making the latter score "zero" in the province of Maguindanao, in the 2004 Presidental elections, which was very crucial in her winning of the said Presidential race.She is obviously sitiing on her hands on this case.

    Only monsters can do this brutality, and not animals, because even animals can be tamed, and would not be able to do this horrible act. A lifetime of jail will only be a slap on the wrist for these monsters. Death penalty should be revived. And it also a big possibiity for Gloria Arroyo to pardon these monsters in the near future, as what she did with other criminals like Teehankee, Jalosjos,former President Joseph Estrada, and the alleged killers of the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

    November 27, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Reply
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    November 28, 2009 at 6:51 am | Reply
  6. ratifying obliqueer

    As a regular person like me, i have little to say with the things that are happening around us but when you reached your maturity and have kids i started to be sensitive with the events that is going on in this times. I am no scholar I'm not even employed sad to say still a student in the age of 29. But that doesn't make me stopped from blogging what i have to say. To make my comment short...

    I hope that someday things will be different that politicians in this country will not only think of themselves but also the people that they should be govern. That they will not think as they are the gods of their governed land but a helper to the people. This country have created a bad tradition to be followed by the coming generation. I hope this will stop and forever change the future for the better. If not i will do everything to migrate somewhere, it is sad to just give up your homeland. And i know more and more wants to get out here and give up hope. I write because i want hope, i want change, and i want a good life for my people.

    November 29, 2009 at 6:21 am | Reply
  7. Madeleine Plaza

    This tragedy is common in the Philippines particularly in the island of Mindanao. It is a very sad feeling to the people that still love transparency and hope for good things in the Philippines. I just come back from holiday in Philippines in Mindanao to visit my family. The vice mayor of my town was killed too( people talking link to politic). The tragedy affected most people of his municipality as he doing the right things such monitoring employees not doing the right things. The greedy and corruption people laughing of the tragedy.

    Wishing this christmas to the greedy and corrupt politician you know who are to please practice the right things. Your bad activities makes the Philippines worst in the whole world

    And to those politician doing the right things please continue doing.

    November 30, 2009 at 2:05 am | Reply
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