The World is Stunned by Murder of 12 Philippine Journalists

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H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Malacañang Palace
Manila
Republic of the Philippines
Fax: (011.63.2) 735.6152

Your Excellency:

The members of the Overseas Press Club of America are stunned by the news received today of the massacre of 12 journalists along with more than nine other people in Mangudadatu Province, Mindanao Island. This is an atrocity which demands the swiftest and fullest action by your government to bring the killers to justice.

We are too well aware of the history of violence against journalists in the Philippines. These killings bring to 15 the number of journalists killed in the Philippines in 2009. We have urged you numerous times in the past to bring all of your resources to bear on each individual case. But this mass murder deserves something even greater.

If peaceful political organizers and the journalists traveling with them can be slain with impunity then the very foundation of democratic government in The Philippines is at stake. What would prevent further mass murder, political or otherwise, from erupting anytime and anywhere in your nation?

Although the facts on this killing are still reaching the outside world we understand from the Philippines National Union of Journalists that reporters from regional and national media organizations were accompanying a convoy supporting the wife of a local vice mayor, Esmael Mangudadatu. The supporters were traveling to file papers on behalf of Mangudadatu as a candidate for governor of Mindanao. From local media reports, we understand that the reporters and supporters of the candidate were among a party of 40 taken hostage at a police checkpoint by what local reports say was a militia of 100 gunmen.

The National Union of Journalists stated that bodies of the 12 reporters were among 21 found murdered near the village of Masalay. One victim was the candidate's wife. Local news sources said some of the victims were beheaded and their bodies mutilated.

An ominous report emerged that two men visited a hotel in Tacurong City, where some of the journalists were staying, and demanded a list of the reporters’ names. The hotel staff said the names were refused. As we're sure you understand, there can be no clearer example of press intimidation than to demand reporters names in advance of their premeditated slaughter. We are well aware of the fact that this region of the Philippines has a long history of clannish Christian—Muslim religious violence that is difficult to police. Madam President, we understand you have charged your defense secretary and your armed forces chief to personally take charge of this operation, and that they have sent a military brigade to Mindanao to begin a search operation for the killers. We are reassured by your statement that "No effort will be spared to bring justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable to the full limit of the law."

The worldwide journalistic community is watching your effort with hopes that you will soon have the killers and leaders behind this atrocity under arrest and facing justice. Forceful action by you can send a message that the days of murdering reporters without consequence are over.

Sincerely,
Robert Dowling
George Bookman
Tala Dowlatshahi
Dorinda Elliott
Jeremy Main
Larry Martz
Norman Schorr
David Alpern
Bill Collins
Allan Dodds Frank
Sonya Fry
John Martin
Kevin McDermott
Jacqueline Albert Simon
Minky Worden
The Freedom of the Press Committee of the Overseas Press Club of America

Cc:

H.E. Willy C. Gaa
Ambassador of the Philippines to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 467.9417

Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
556 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 840.8602

H.E. Kristie A. Kenney
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines
Embassy of the United States of America
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Manila
Philippines
FAX: 011 [63] (2) 301-2399

Philippines National Union of Journalists
105-A Scout Castor
Barangay Sacred Heart
Quezon City
Philippines
Fax: 011 (632) 400-50-59
nujp_manila@yahoo.com

The Editor
Manila Times
eMail: Newsboy1@manilatimes.net

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