Friday, June 02, 2006

Is the culture of impunity now a matter of gov't policy?

Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, writes about the continued journalist murders in the country in a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer today.

In her article "Journalist killings point to policy of indifference", De Jesus writes:

"There is not much to suggest that the administration cares about the rights of its critics, even the fundamental right to life. It has given no sign of any intention to do anything about the problem, no plan to study, to review cases or to formulate a strategy to address the issue. After talking about it in Malaca├▒ang, all they had to say was, 'Let them protect themselves.'

"With no leads yet on the murder of (slain Palawe├▒o journalist Fernando) Batul, Gonzalez went on to criticize 'fly-by-night journalists' and media members who abuse the power of the press. He said, 'You have to be sure of what is the reason (for the killing). There are media men killed in a drinking spree or because of a woman, so what does that have to do with his work?' We can only read this as a policy statement on the issue, quickly shifting the blame to erring members of the press.

She adds: "If the government is not actively pursuing a policy of violence, its demonstrated inertia effectively sustains such violence as a useful instrument to eliminate activists and to silence critics."

The culture of impunity, De Jesus says, "provides a comfort zone for assailants and their masterminds," allowing mechanisms for killings to go unpunished. "If the government does not undertake extraordinary measures to pursue the killers of journalists and activists, it is effectively tolerating and, at one level, facilitating the killings."

De Jesus ends with this criticial note: It is time to ask: Is the “culture of impunity” a matter of policy?

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