17 June 2019

The largest global organization of journalists has called on President Duterte and the Philippine government to uphold press freedom and ensure the safety of media workers, days after a veteran journalist was abducted and held incommunicado, then later freed purportedly due to mistaken identity.

In an urgent motion passed during its 30th World Congress held from June 11 to 14 in the capital city of Tunis in Tunisia, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also demanded that the Philippine government “takes concrete and credible steps and actions to resolve the killing of Filipino media workers and prevent further attacks.”

The motion, presented by Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), was approved by 261 delegates from 117 unions who attended the triennial congress.

The IFJ represents about 600,000 media professionals in 187 unions and associations in more than 146 countries. The NUJP is the IFJ’s Philippine affiliate.

The IFJ expressed alarm over the detention of Davao-based journalist Margarita Valle who was seized on June 9 at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental and held for nearly 12 hours without access to counsel or family.

She was later released after the Philippine National Police admitted to a case of mistaken identity.

The IFJ also raised concern on the arrests, harassment and filing of criminal and civil cases against media workers perceived to be critical of the Duterte administration, noting that 12 Filipino media workers have been killed since the President took office on June 30, 2016;

It said it was disturbed with instances of red-tagging of the NUJP and being falsely linked to “unfounded destabilization plots against the Philippine government” along with other media and civil society organizations.

In the motion, the IFJ called on its affiliates to “actively support the Philippine media community and the families of murdered journalists.”

It called for journalists unions to initiate and join actions to defend press freedom in the Philippines and in marking the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre on November 23, 2019, which was declared as International Day to End Impunity.

It noted that after nearly 10 years after 58 persons including 32 media workers were gunned down in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province, “not one of the suspects have been convicted for the massacre, considered the world’s worst single attack against media workers.”