Sunday, 24 January 2010 23:26
KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/24 January 2010) – “Massacre in the Phillippines: International Solidarity Mission Rapid Assessment Report” listed 23 recommendations on four areas of concern in the aftermath of the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao: addressing the massacre and the long prevailing culture of impunity for the murders of media personnel in the Philippines; support for the families of victims; government and judicial issues; and the security of journalists working in the Philippines.
Some of the recommendations are being implemented already such as trauma-counselling and legal support for the media victims’ families.
The recommendations were made by international media organizations – International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), International News Safety Institute (INSI), International Media Support (IMS), Union Network International (UNI), Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) whose representatives visited Mindanao and Manila on December 5 to 11.
The recommendations also took into account the findings of an independent fact-finding report prepared by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), news organisation Mindanews, and members of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), immediately after the massacre.
It also called on the international community to monitor developments in the Philippines to ensure that the massacre is properly investigated, that the perpetrators are punished and that such atrocities against journalists and media workers can never happen again.
The following are the recommendations. A copy of the full report is available at http://asiapacific.ifj.org//assets/docs/203/037/15d11cb-013d725.pdf
Support for families of the victims
1. Families of the victims must be provided with trauma counselling and further follow-up support.
2. Families must be provided with legal support to pursue the prosecution of perpetrators, given the likelihood of protracted delays in the justice system. They must also be given support in bringing pressure on the Arroyo Government to pursue its own procedures.
3. Other areas of legal assistance may be required in terms of the ongoing welfare of the families and this should also be made available as needed.
4. The families of all victims must be given immediate financial support as well as follow-up assistance to help generate a sustainable income and assistance in finding employment in cases where the victim was the sole breadwinner for the family.
5. The mission welcomes the NUJP’s intention to extend its scholarship program for the children of slain journalists - now running for five years - to address the needs of at least 75 children and dependents of the massacre victims.
6. A safety assessment must be undertaken for each of the victims’ families and appropriate measures taken to ensure their ongoing security. This is urgently required during the gathering of evidence and the lead-up and subsequent trial.
Military and Police
7. A full investigation is required into the actions of General Cayton, then Commander of the 6th Infantry Division, immediately preceding the massacre.
8. A full investigation is required into reports that several members of the Philippine National Police were involved in the massacre. The Government must take all necessary steps to remove corrupt police and ensure all police in Maguindanao act in accordance with their responsibility
to protect and serve citizens. Any police found to work with ruling clans and warlords must be stripped of their positions and punished.
9. The Government must instigate immediately a thorough investigation and overhaul of structures covering local government, the military and police to redress the failure
of authority and accountability in the administration of Maguindanao province (and other provinces across the Philippines) and ensure that law and order is respected.
10. The Government must immediately provide training for its military and police to ensure that those responsible for the safety and security of citizens, including media personnel, are aware of their obligations under United Nations Resolution 1738. The resolution “condemns intentional attacks against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel, as such, in situations of armed conflict, and calls upon all parties to put an end to such practices.”
Investigation and Prosecution
11. The Government and local authorities must undertake all necessary measures to fully investigate the massacre and to ensure all evidence is properly preserved and available.
12. The Government and local authorities must provide all necessary measures for the protection and safety of witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, lawyers and judges throughout the investigation and trial process.
13. The Government must ensure that observers and human rights groups have full and open access to legal proceedings to ensure an open and transparent investigation and trial.
14. The Government must ensure that families of the victims are given access to all relevant documentation regarding the massacre, the investigation and resulting legal proceedings.
15. The Government should ensure that sufficient resources are made available to prosecutors and the judiciary to guarantee a speedy and effective trial of those accused of this massacre. It may be necessary to establish a special tribunal for this purpose.
16. The Government is urged not to reimpose martial law in light of concerns it could be restored in the lead-up to the May 10 elections with a consequent risk of human rights abuses. The mission therefore urges the Government to use due legal process without the resort to brute force that could undermine any prosecutions.
17. The Government is responsible for providing effective, adequate and ongoing compensation to the families of all victims.
Journalism in the Philippines
18. The Government must take measures to protect media personnel who witnessed the events of November 23, including the provision of a safe haven during the investigation and legal process.
19. Journalists working in Mindanao must be provided with trauma counselling.
20. Support is needed to assist the NUJP to establish a regional safety office in Mindanao (working with the NUJP’s Manila-based Safety Office) before the May 2010 elections, in order to provide safety training and support for journalists covering the campaign. The office would
also seek to monitor the effect of the massacre on reportage in the region as well as ongoing threats to journalists’ safety.
21. Support is further needed to assist the NUJP and other organisations to revise safety procedures for journalists and media houses across the country. Complementing this, assistance is required to upgrade the skills of current safety trainers and to train more locally based trainers who can work with media at the local level across the country, most efficiently through NUJP local chapters.
22. The Government must ensure a safe environment in which media across the country can report fairly and critically on the conduct of the campaign for the May 10 elections.
International obligations and actions
23. The Government is urged to acknowledge and act on its commitments under International Obligations and Actions to ensure protection and safety for media personnel as citizens working in the public interest.
Relevant international instruments including the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the 2006 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 must be respected.
The report, dated December 2009, was launched in Koronadal City on January 23, 2010 in the presence of the media victims’ families.
The launching of the mission report was also the launching date for the newly-organized “Justice Now!” organization of the families of media victims. (MindaNews)