The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 60th Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on 26 September 2011 in Taipei, Taiwan, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on The Philippines government to combat impunity in the killing of journalists and inject a greater degree of urgency into passage of a Freedom of Information Act before Congress.
The IPI Press Freedom Mission delegation which travelled to The Philippines from 20-23 September 2011 and met with key representatives of the country’s government and media, welcomed the commitment to press freedom expressed by the government of President Benigno Aquino III in the first year of its administration
Representatives of the media and civil society generally agreed that the press freedom situation has witnessed some improvements in the past year and attacks against the media, both in the form of legal harassment as well as physical attacks, have diminished.
Nevertheless, three journalists have already been killed in the Philippines in 2011 – most likely as a consequence of their reports – and four journalists have been killed since President Aquino III came to power on 30 June 2010. Despite police investigations – sometimes resulting in charges – into these crimes, neither the killers nor the masterminds have so far been convicted.
Furthermore, concern was expressed that Freedom of Information legislation, which President Aquino III stated would be one of the priorities of his administration, has not been laid before the Philippines Congress.
IPI members urged the government to ensure that much needed reforms of the justice system and the rules of court, which would limit delays and other obstacles to the judicial process, are promptly implemented, to discourage further attacks on the media, and promote an end to the lack of prosecution of the killers of journalists.
IPI members also called on the Philippines’ Department of Justice to ensure that the new criminal code it is drafting removes provisions related to criminal libel and defamation and complies with international standards on press freedom. Libel must be dealt with by a civil law process.
Finally, IPI members urged President Aquino III to speed the passage of the Freedom of Information Act and ensure that it does not include restrictions on press freedom.