DUBLIN, IRELAND–The world’s largest organization of journalists on Friday called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and other Philippine authorities to take steps to expedite the trial of those accused in the nearly four-year olf Ampatuan Massacre trial.
In a resolution passed during its 28th World Congress in Dublin, Ireland, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also called on Philippine authorities to immediately arrest and arraign all the accused in the 2009 massacre of 58 people including 32 media workers in Maguindanao province. Ninety of the 196 accused remain at large and only three of the principal suspects have so far been arraigned.
The resolution also demanded that the Philippine justice department “take measures to protect the witnesses and families of victims.”
The IFJ Congress, attended by more than 300 journalists representing journalist organizations from more than 100 countries, expressed alarm over reports that some of the families of the victims have received threats It also noted how the accused, through emissaries, have reportedly offered money to the families in exchange for signing affidavits of desistance.
“Everybody is disappointed that after years and years of campaigning, the justice system in the Philippines has not moved forward. Journalists here from 120 coutries are absolutely united in making sure that they will help the widest campaigns until justice is found, ” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ president.
Introduced by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) represented by Rowena Paraan and Nestor Burgos Jr., the organization’s chair and national director, respectively, the resolution expressed concern at the “slow progress in bringing justice” to the victims and their families.
“More than three and half years, there has not been a conviction for the murders while 90 of the 106 accused remain at large and only three of the principal suspects have been arraigned,” according to the resolution.
The IFJ Congress said it was concerned with “confirmed reports that the accused are coercing families to accept monetary settlements in exchange for signing affidavits of desistance.”
It called on its affiliates representing 600,000 members to actively support the Philippine media community and families of massacre victims by initiating or joining actions demanding the speedy resolution of the case particularly on the massacre anniversary (November 23) which was declared media organizations as International Day to End Impunity.
On Wednesday (June 5), delegates of the IFJ congress held a silent walk march holding 408 carnations to honor the same number of journalists around the world who were murdered since the IFJ’s world congress in 2010.
A streamer with the images of the 32 media workers killed in the massacre was carried by the NUJP delegates during the 15-minute walk from the Dublin Castle to the Dublin City Hall. (PLEASE SEE PHOTO ATTACHED)
Thirty-two media workers were among the 58 persons killed when armed men stopped the convoy of relatives and supporters of then gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu and journalists covering the activity. Witnesses have pointed at the Ampatuans as perpetrators, with then Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. himself giving the order to shoot.
The massacre is considered the world’s worst ever single attack against journalists.
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