CPJ welcomes indictment of 200 in Maguindanao slaying

New York, February 9, 2010—An indictment in the Philippines of nearly 200 people in the November 23 killings of 57 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, is a welcome first step toward achieving justice in this terribly slaying, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ hopes that this signals a coming reversal in the country’s abysmal record of impunity.

According to local and international news reports, the indictment charged the powerful local politician and political clan leader Andal Ampatuan Sr. and others (differing media reports put the number somewhere between 195 and 197) of conspiring to ambush and kill members of the rival Mangudadatu family and supporters, who were gunned down in Maguindanao province. The killings were allegedly carried out to prevent Esmael Mangudadatu from challenging the Ampatuans’ control of the province in May’s elections. The 32 journalists and media workers killed in the attack were in a convoy with Mangudadatu’s family members and his political allies to enter his name as a candidate.

“This is a welcome fist step in addressing this terrible attack,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “But with a change in political administrations at the provincial and national level expected after May’s elections, the Philippines’ judiciary and prosecutorial teams must maintain the energy to bring what will be a very complex judicial process to completion.”

CPJ data show the killings to be by far the single worst incident in which journalists have been killed. CPJ has expressed fears (here and here) that there would not be a successful prosecution of the perpetrators.

The Philippines ranks second on CPJ’s list of the deadliest countries for journalists, behind only Iraq. The country ranks sixth on our 2009 Global Impunity Index, and would move up if the Maguindanao killings are not fully prosecuted.

“A successful prosecution would help reduce the overwhelming level of impunity for those who kill journalists in the Philippines,” Dietz said.