The organizations—Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, MindaNews, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism—felt they had to act quickly because the Philippines has a very poor record of carrying out investigations and bringing prosecutions in the deaths of journalists. CPJ ranks the country the sixth worst in terms of impunity for those who kill journalists. They were right to move quickly. When the investigative team went to Ampatuan they were accompanied by a forensics expert. They were horrified by the destruction of evidence by the police and army teams who were using excavators to search for and retrieve the victims’ bodies. The scene of the crime—actually there were a few killing areas—was ruined in a way that will make it very difficult if not impossible to reconstruct what happened.
The BBC reported today that 19 people being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation for their involvement in the massacre have been placed on a security watch list. That means they can’t leave the country, but they haven’t been arrested. The BBC said 12 of the 19 are relatives of Andal Ampatuan Jr.—the only person in custody. Ampatuan is charged with multiple counts of murder, which he denies. He has applied for release on bail. He belongs to the powerful Ampatuan political clan. He is the son of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and brother of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.
from about 10 international media support groups will start assembling in
As we were waiting for confirmation of the death toll to come in, we searched our database for any similar instances. By far, the killings in Maguindanao have proven to be the worst we have on record, and most likely the worst in the history of journalism.
That sort of record is hard to put into perspective. But
when considering the facts, and they are still emerging, keep a few points in
mind. As far as we can tell, to date, the journalists killed in Ampatuan were
not directly targeted for their work, but were the victims of a long-running
political feud between two rival political clans competing for supremacy in the
area. Neither is the massacre linked to
But these most recent killings are a massive political setback to the government, which had political ties with the Ampatuan clan. Arroyo, whose administration had become increasingly unpopular over the years, announced that she would not seek presidential re-election as she had reportedly been considering—there would have been an almost certain constitutional challenge to her candidacy—but would instead run for a congressional seat in her home district of Pampanga, a decision that might have been made well before November 23. Despite all of the government’s denouncements of these killings and the past murders of journalists, and the promise for a full investigation, there is reason to be skeptical that Arroyo’s government will be able to fully follow through.
Even before this massacre, 38 journalists were killed for their
work in the
Read a pdf of the investigative report here.