November 23 will mark five years since the Maguindanao massacre, the single deadliest event for the press since the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping records in 1992.
Altogether, 30 local journalists and two media workers were among at least 57 victims slain as they traveled to Maguindanao province in the Philippines. The journalists were accompanying a convoy of family and supporters of Ismael Mangudadatu, a local politician who was filing candidacy papers to challenge a member of the powerful Ampatuan clan in the gubernatorial elections. It was believed the presence of journalists would afford the convoy some protection. Sadly it did not.
The Ampatuans–a powerful political family who have won numerous elections in the region, are believed to have plotted the 2009 massacre to derail Mangudadatu’s election plans, according to news accounts. The Ampatuans deny the accusations.
This single event is largely responsible for making the Philippines the second deadliest country for journalists, second only to Iraq, according to CPJ research. With the lack of justice, media killings have continued. Altogether, 77 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992, 75 of whom have been murdered, our research shows.
On the first anniversary of the killings, President Benigno Aquino said the resolution of the Maguindanao case would be a “litmus test” of the country’s justice system. But to this day, not a single conviction has been achieved. Four witnesses have been murdered — the most recent on November 18, 2014, in an armed ambush as he traveled to a meeting to give testimony to a prosecutor. Relatives of witnesses have also reported being attacked, threatened, offered bribes, and harassed, CPJ research shows. The lack of progress has raised serious doubts in the Philippines and the international community about the Aquino administration’s ability to deliver justice.
CPJ produced a short video that sheds light on the pervasive culture of impunity in journalist murders in the Philippines and serves as a powerful reminder that justice remains elusive. For five years we have pressed authorities in the Philippines to deliver on their promises, and we will continue to do so until justice has been served.