The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns
the attack on Cagayan de Oro broadcaster Nilo Labares of Radio
Mindanao Network’s station dxCC who was shot and seriously wounded the evening of March 5, 2009.
Colleagues describe Labares as a hard-hitting commentator who was
active in denouncing illegal activities such as cockfights and unlicensed entertainment joints in his city when he was attacked.
Cagayan de Oro journalists say Labares informed his colleagues at RMN that he had been receiving threats before the attack and, at one
point, was approached by an emissary of a “powerful” personality who warned him to stop his tirades against video carera and even asked how much it would take him to do so.
His network has said Labares has been declared out of danger. But
while, we hope for his speedy recovery, we worry that his safety is
far from assured and demand that authorities act posthaste to secure him and others who may be under threat.
Again, while we reiterate that we see no proof of any official policy
of directly attacking journalists, we nevertheless lay the blame for
this and previous assaults on our colleagues, too many of who have
been silenced permanently, on the government, whose inaction and
apathy, as well as its actual attempts to muzzle the media and curtail freedom of the press and expression, have nurtured the culture of impunity that emboldens those who wish to silence us.
The situation is not helped any by the efforts of ill-advised
lawmakers to craft repressive legislation like the right of reply
bill, or to sabotage efforts to expand democratic space like that
which perverted what would have been a bill to decriminalize libel
into one that would be even more draconian than the existing law.
These continued attempts to silence the independent media, whether
through physical assaults, government attempts at control or devious legislation are alarming symptoms not just of a general breakdown in law and order but, worse, of an increasing drift toward repression.
We do wish we are wrong and dare government to prove us so.
Unfortunately, that may be wishful thinking.
Nevertheless, we call on our colleagues and the public we serve to
band together and refuse to waver. Only our united resistance and
determination can prevent those who seek to rob us of our freedoms.
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