On November 23, 2009, Esmael Mangudadatu decided to register his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao, in the southern Philippines. Because his rivals from the Ampuatan clan had pledged to block him from filing the papers, he dispatched his female relatives, believing that they would not be harmed. He also thought it would increase security to invite journalists along, and several press cars joined the caravan.
An hour into the drive, the caravan hit a road block. Armed men commandeered the cars and drove the victims to a field where they had already dug graves with giant backhoes. Fifty-seven people were slaughtered, including 32 journalists and media workers, The only survivor was a reporter who had turned back early because the battery on his cell phone had died.
The Maguindanao massacre–as it has become known–is the most deadly press incident ever recorded by CPJ. Last year, November 23 was a bitter anniversary. This year, we will remember those killed, but we are also hoping to use the day to inspire global action.
Under the auspices of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), November 23 has been designated as the International Day to End Impunity. CPJ will be participating along with dozens of press freedom groups in demanding justice for journalists murdered in Maguindanao and around the globe.
We know the importance of speaking out. In 2007, CPJ launched its own Global Campaign against Impunity with support from the Knight Foundation. Our efforts have focused on Russia and Philippines, two counties where journalists are frequently murdered and the killers routinely go free. Because of pressure from domestic and international groups, governments in both countries now acknowledge the gravity of the problem. In Russia, there has even been halting progress, with a decline in violence against journalists and a recent conviction in a reporter’s killing.
In the Philippines, the alleged perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre are on trial, but justice has been exasperatingly slow. This is the time for people all over the world to speak up and to remind the government in the Philippines that we will hold them to account.
Since 1992, CPJ has documented the cases of 625 journalists who have been murdered for their work. The majority of journalists killed are not battlefield casualties–they are hunted down and targeted for murder. In nine out of 10 cases, their killers walk free.
Here’s what you can do. You can visit the International Day to End Impunity online to learn more about journalists who have been killed with impunity around the world, and take action in each case to demand justice.
CPJ is proud to support the International Day to End Impunity. We can’t allow the killers to determine what we know. By demanding justice for our colleagues, we are also standing up for the right of people everywhere to be informed.