On the 40th day of the Ampatuan massacre which left at least 57 persons dead, including at least 30 journalists and media workers, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) announced the creation of the JUSTICE FUND.
The FUND seeks to raise the necessary finances that will help address the needs of the families of the victims of the massacre including a trauma counseling program, the implementation of a training program for the local media community and supporting the legal and advocacy efforts to seek justice for the victims.
Nestor Burgos Jr., NUJP chair, said that through the FUND, individuals and groups that wish to help can send their donations which will be deposited in an account to be opened specifically for this purpose.
The activities that the FUND will support will be posted on the NUJP website and will be regularly audited by an external auditor, the results of which will also be published and reported to the donors.
NUJP identified five target areas for the JUSTICE FUND: a trauma counseling program for the families and members of local media community; enhancement of the capabilities of media practitioners in Mindanao through a series of training on risk awareness and safety, election reporting, and reporting on culturally and politically sensitive places such as Mindanao; litigation support; public awareness campaigns; and the documentation of other incidents of harassment and attacks on the press in Mindanao.
The JUSTICE FUND also aims to build solidarity between media and the public, and to deepen public understanding of factors that led to the massacre.
“The JUSTICE FUND seeks to build awareness not just on what happened in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 but on the system that breeds corruption, warlordism and political patronage which paved the way to the carnage.
The JUSTICE FUND also aspires to encourage a Press that is critical and ethical, zealous of its rights and responsibilities,”.
JUSTICE FUND For humanitarian assistance, advocacy work and legal support
The massacre that left 57 people dead, at least 31 of them media workers, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23 has left the Philippine media community staggering, not just from the toll – already established as the largest single loss for the press in history – but also the task of helping rebuild the lives of those left behind, as well as of our colleagues who lost friends and co-workers, and have had to cover and live through the story as well.
Another vital task is working to hold accountable all those who should be held accountable, not just the persons who carried out the carnage, but those responsible for creating the circumstances that made it possible. For more than the refusal of a power hungry warlord to brook any resistance to his rule, the roots of the massacre lie in a system of governance that nurtures allies like the Ampatuans, arming them and turning a blind eye to their corruption and venality in exchange for their loyalty and support.
To achieve all these will require substantial resources. Thus, the need to reach out to colleagues, friends and the public for help.
The following are the tasks at hand:
1. Address the massive trauma and stress suffered by the victims’ families and the local media community. While emergency trauma counseling has been initiated, there is a need for a mid- to long-term program, since it will take time for them to cope with the loss of kin, friends, colleagues.
2. Strengthen the skills and capabilities of media practitioners, especially those in the provinces where the risks are greatest. Among the most urgent are trainings in risk awareness and safety, election reporting, and reporting on culturally and politically sensitive places such as Mindanao. The sad fact is, attacks on the press are not likely to end despite the outrage stirred by the Ampatuan massacre and many Filipino journalists continue to embark on dangerous coverage with practically no tools to help them cope with the challenges as well as stress in doing the job.
3. Support the legal actions against the suspects by assisting the private and public prosecutors and the witnesses through whatever actions needed. This require vast resources, given the costs of litigation as well as providing sanctuary for witnesses and even litigants who may come under threat from the accused.
4. Intensify public awareness campaigns, including organizing monthly commemorations of the massacre, holding a countdown for justice, initiating different types of discussion forums focusing on the massacre and its root causes, and the publication of materials.
5. Document other incidents of harassment and attacks on the press in Mindanao.
The JUSTICE FUND seeks to enable NUJP and other media groups working to help the families of victims and local media community achieve the tasks outlined above.
The NUJP is a national organization of journalists and media workers in the Philippines, with 62 chapters in various news organizations and provinces nationwide. It was established in 1986 to address the dismal working conditions of media workers and defend the people’s right to a free press and free expression. NUJP has been in the forefront of the struggle to stop media killings and all forms of attacks against media. NUJP is the local affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, the biggest alliance of media groups and unions in the world.
Immediately after the Ampatuan massacre, NUJP sent a quick reaction team to the area, conducted a fact-finding mission to document the incident and ascertain the needs of the families, organized an International Solidarity Mission to pressure the Arroyo government to action, called for a Global Day of Action Against the Ampatuan Massacre to which media unions and groups in 31 countries responded, and was the lead convenor of a broad alliance of media groups and civil society organizations called November 23 Movement that has launched protest actions.
The JUSTICE FUND is more than just raising money. It seeks to build solidarity between the target beneficiaries of the program and the media, between media and the public. The JUSTICE FUND seeks to build awareness not just on what happened in Ampatuan Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 but on the system that breeds corruption, warlordism and political patronage which paved the way to the carnage. The JUSTICE FUND seeks to encourage a Press that is critical and ethical, zealous of its rights and responsibilities.
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