MANILA, Philippines – By making “careless and baseless allegations” against them, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has endangered journalists reporting on extrajudicial killings in the government’s war on drugs, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said on Tuesday, August 23.
In a statement, the NUJP called out Cayetano for “irresponsibly” accusing the media of being paid by drug syndicates to damage the reputation of the Duterte administration through reports on the rising death toll in the fight against illegal drugs.
It noted that Cayetano, during a Senate hearing on Monday, had singled out ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “practically accusing them of wanting to tar the administration, the broadcast network by headlining the growing outrage over the killings, the daily for its ‘kill list.’”
“Such allegations, without any proof, not only serve to unjustly cast a pall of suspicion over the Philippine media and, in particular, the journalists who toil on the front lines but, much worse, put lives in danger,” it said.
The NUJP expressed concern that such allegations turn the media into “targets” and also provide “a convenient cover for those who would silence an independent press and have already claimed a horrendous toll of more than 170 from our profession’s ranks since 1986.”
It said that like Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Cayetano “also irresponsibly raises the claim, without proffering an iota of evidence, that media are among those being bought off with drug money supposedly to discredit the administration.”
‘Road to hell’
The NUJP said that while it has no quarrel with the senator’s desire to rid the country of criminals and drug syndicates, “we do mind it when his zeal drives him to spout careless and baseless accusations that endanger not only us but others as well.”
“As he himself said in his remarks at the hearing, good intentions do pave the road to hell,” it said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for issuing blanket allegations against members of the Philippine media seen to further endanger their lives. A month before he formally assured the presidency, the Chief Executive had said that journalists are “not exempt from assassination” as they probably deserved to die.
“Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong,” Duterte said on May 31, adding that many journalists in the Philippines were corrupt.
Last year, the Philippines was deemed the 4th worst place for journalists based on the 2015 Global Impunity Index of New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The list was topped by Somalia, followed by Iraq, and Syria.
The report said that “the Philippines remains the only country within the top 5 impunity offenders not engulfed by conflict and acute political instability.” – Rappler.com