Maguindanao death toll worst for press in recent history

New York, November 25, 2009—A brutal election-related massacre in the Philippine province of Maguindanao on Monday appears to be single deadliest event for the press since 1992, when CPJ began keeping detailed records on journalist deaths.

The New York Times and The Associated Press reported today that at least 18 of the victims have been preliminarily identified as journalists. The overall death toll rose to 57 today, news reports said. Searchers were still discovering bodies and establishing identities. CPJ is working with local and international media support groups to extend assistance to the families of those slain on Monday.

“Even as we tally the dead in this horrific massacre, our initial research indicates that this is the deadliest single attack on the press ever documented by CPJ,” said executive director Joel Simon. “While the scale is unprecedented, the backdrop is all too familiar. President Arroyo must commit the full resources of her government to confronting once and for all the culture of impunity which perpetuates this kind of terrible violence.”

According to CPJ research, the deadliest prior event for the press came in Iraq on October 12, 2006. Eleven employees of Al-Shaabiya television were killed in an attack at the station’s Baghdad studios. Five of the victims were journalists, and six were media support workers. CPJ has compiled a list of other incidents in which many journalists were killed.