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MEDIATIMES 2013_By the Numbers: Attacks and Threats Against the Press

MEDIATIMES 2013_By the Numbers: Attacks and Threats Against the Press

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From January to October 2013, 66 incidents of attacks and threats against Filipino journalists and media workers were reported; eight journalists were killed in the line of duty.
From January to October 2013, 66 incidents of attacks and threats against Filipino journalists and media workers were reported; eight journalists were killed in the line of duty.

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Published by: Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility on May 06, 2014
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2013 • Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility
 He was more than his dead body, like all the  journalists who have died before him.“That’s him,” his common-law wifeconfirmed. But it was no longer him,lying there in a coffin.The people sitting on a narrow bench and the people passing through or standing beside the coffin barely fit the alley where they held the funeral. His mother was sitting at the other end, mourning her third child who had diedbefore her.
*As of October 2013
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility • 2013
“I told him to stop it with the tabloid business,” his mother said in a hushed voice.Bonifacio Loreto Jr. must have known it was coming. He had received death threats like the others. His family was fearful but he went on anyway.Loreto had just come out with the irst issue of
 Aksyon Ngayon
, a tabloid he published and wrote for as a columnist. Like many other tabloids in the country, the irst issue devoted the bulk of its four pages to police crime stories, jueteng, rape and other sexual offences. The paper opened its pages during the campaign period of the 2013 mid-term elections. Like many designed to win votes for this or that candidate, it would probably have closed after the election. But Loreto would not live long enough to release his second issue.The story is typical. Many tabloids have the short life tied to the campaign funds fueling the election. Such tabloids are seen as petty partisan rags which in the ield of electoral competition are enough of a threat to some parties, provoking fatal attacks from those they cross. Loreto is just one of the eight Filipino journalists and media workers killed for their work this year. Several more were attacked and threatened as victims of the violence that contaminates local politics.
As of October this year, there were 66 reported incidents of attacks and threats against journalists and media workers in 2013 while there were 39 reported incidents in 2012, when there was no elections. This count does not include the killing of journalists. Attacks and threats happen in various ways. Not all incidents rise from the heat of elections. Some involve actions as “simple” as reporters’ being barred from covering the canvassing of votes during elections, while some were as alarming as a blocktimer’s home being shot at twice, after he was arrested for libel without a warrant and without a case being iled.
“Blocktimers” are broadcasters who buy blocks of time from radio stations or cable TV channels to air their programs. They usually pay for the “blocktime” through sponsors, some of whom are politicians, some advertisers.
2013 • Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility
The bulk of these incidents happened in Metro Manila, where practitioners have long been thought to be immune from such attacks. Fifteen incidents were reported of journalists attacked and threatened in the capital region, an area regarded as safer than the provinces.Nine incidents happened in the Bicol Region (Region V) and eight in Central Luzon (Region III). Ten of the 17 incidents of attacks and threats in these two regions involved radio workers. Nine occurred while covering this year’s elections.
Of the total 66 incidents during the year, 32 were against radio workers. Nineteen of these 32 incidents were election-related. This trend seems to relect a inding of a study by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center on political dynasties.The AIM Policy Center study released in March found a relationship between political dynasties and the number of AM radio stations. Where the political dynasty held less positions in local government, there were more AM radio stations operating, relecting greater level of competition among political forces in the province. Where there are “fat” dynasties, there is less radio, less competing voices in the media. In a blog post from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), AIM Policy Center executive director, Professor Ronald Mendoza, deined a “fat” dynasty as “one that has been able to expand across several elective positions simultaneously. For example, a political family may have, at any one time, a member in Congress, in the provincial capitol, in the municipal halls, and in the town councils.”Mendoza identiies the presence of a critical radio broadcasting as a factor that prevents a political dynasty from expanding, allowing other newer, political dynasties to compete. “(The political dynasties can’t expand) it seems, according to the results we are seeing,” Mendoza was quoted as saying in the PCIJ blog post. “Media are leveling the playing ield by providing information.”The impact of radio stations on politics should be analyzed more to establish a connection to the level of violence against journalists.
The elections held in May this year account for the increase from last year’s in the number of attacks and threats against journalists and media workers. Of this year’s incidents, 25 were election-related. Reporters were prevented from helping ensure clean and transparent elections.The number of election-related attacks and threats this year is bigger than the total number of alerts from the last two election years combined. In 2007, the Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR) reported only nine election-related incidents and only ive in 2010.This drastic increase could be due to journalists’ and media workers’ being more aware that they have to report press freedom violations that they witness or experience, even in the face of danger and the culture of impunity that protects perpetrators of violations.On the eve of the May 13 elections, the crew of the TV news program
Ronda Balita
 in Ozamis City, northern Mindanao, was trying to catch a rumored mass vote-buying activity at a seaside village. But the convoy of then-mayoralty candidate Rolando Romero stopped them. Romero and his security aides also destroyed the news crew’s equipment when the producer tried to interview him. Not content, Romero allegedly tried to shoot at one cameraman. But when his pistol misired, the group mauled the media worker instead. The politician’s ally later said Romero had only “defended himself.”After election-day, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) oficials barred reporters from the canvassing of votes in the provinces of Northern Samar in the Visayas and Aurora in Southern Luzon. Election oficials in both provinces asked reporters for their COMELEC accreditations. But the reporters were still barred even when they complied. When the reporters complained, COMELEC chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. advised them to ile a complaint with the police.
Libel charges also present a danger to journalists and media workers reporting campaigns and elections. There were 11 cases of libel in 2013. Four libel suits were iled this year against radio anchors and commentators for their coverage of the local elections in their areas. But libel is a constant threat. Five more were iled against other journalists and media workers for their coverage of corruption and other illegal activities. There were also two journalists convicted this year for libel complaints iled years ago.Philippine law criminalizes libel, imposing a ine, up to six years imprisonment, or both, on those found guilty. It has been used to threaten, restrain and harass journalists and media workers.
Libel on World Press Freedom Day
On May 3, Friday, right on World Press Freedom Day, Police Director Supt. Reynaldo Maclang barged into a radio booth in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, and arrested blocktimer Rodolfo “Maxbans” Tanquis for libel, without a complaint iled or even an arrest warrant.Tanquis was detained until a libel case was iled against him on a Saturday. Curiously, the Ofice of the City Prosecutor was open on a weekend. Rodolfo posted PHP10,000 bail and went into hiding.
CMFR’s Appeal
On May 6, CMFR wrote the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, urging him to take the necessary action against the police director’s warrantless arrest of the blocktimer. Roxas sent a reply dated May 9 saying he had “asked Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General (DG) Alan Purisima to cause an exhaustive, fair and objective investigation of the incident by an independent fact-inding team.”

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