A DAY after the commemoration of World Press Freedom, the number of journalists murdered in our country during the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd increased to 27.
Rubbed out on Sunday was Richard Najid, 35, a good family man and the father of five children, who was the acting manager of DXNN PowerMix FM in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi province, and the anchor of the station’s regular morning news and public affairs program.
He is the second journalist from Tawi-Tawi killed since 2007. Murderers killed Vicente Sumalpong, production supervisor of the government-owned Radyo ng Bayan.
Richard Najid was on the way home Sunday night after playing basketball in his community. Police at this writing have not established the motive for the murder. He was not a particularly ascerbic critic of local, regional or national politicians.
But he did work closely with the local Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) in promoting good governance and, per CCJD leaders, “developing strategies for ensuring democratic governance in the province.” In addition, Najid in April joined a drug bust carried out by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and was counted to serve as a witness of the operation.
Yet Tawi-Tawi provincial police director, Senior Superintendent Joselito Salido made remarks about Richard Najid’s that raised the hackles of fellow journalists. Sr. Supt. Salido dismissed Najid’s murder as a deed “unrelated to his work.” He said Najid was nothing but a “disc jockey, a person that plays popular music on FM radio. He is not a journalist.”
This quotation of what Sr. Supt Salido said comes from Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. She found the police official’s insulting words about Najid disturbing. First, because the murdered journalist did not deserve to be demeaned and, second, because in fact when Salido said those words the investigators had not–and they have not until now–established a motive for the radio journalist’s murder.
Echoes of Pres. Aquino’s words and sentiment
We find the unkind words of Sr. Supt. Salido that NUJP chair Paraan quoted as somehow like an echo of President Aquino’s words during the joint press conference he gave with US President Barack Obama on April 28 Mr. Aquino spewed out words suggesting that some of the journalists who have been killed deserved what they got! And some should not be given so much attention and sympathy because their murder was not work-related.
We vented our grief and anger in our May 3 editorial “President Aquino does not care about journalists’ killing.” We wrote that the vacuousness of President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s answer to Ed Henry of Fox News confirms what we have long suspected: he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the killing of Filipino journalists. And it doesn’t matter to him if the killing is an individual assassination or a massacre.
Ed Henry of Fox News had asked him, “President Aquino, as a journalist, I’d like to ask you why 26 journalists have been killed since you took office? And I understand that there have been suspects arrested in only six of those cases. What are you doing to fix that?”
Mr. Aquino fumbled in making his reply. International press freedom and press welfare watchdogs have berated him about it and his administration’s failure to protect journalists and catch, try and jail the killers of press workers. When he touched on the world-record breaking Maguindanao (Ampatuan) Massacre, in which 32 journalists out of a total of 58 persons were murdered, he manifested that he did not quite know what he was talking about. He said 52 journalists were killed in the massacre.
He also used words that betrayed his attitude to these journalist murders. That anyway some of them deserved to die and some of the killings were not related to the work of the victims as reporters. He spoke words that Sr. Supt. Salido seemed to have decided to echo when he talked about Richard Najib’s murder.
Murders done with impunity
We agree with NUJP chair Rowena Paraan when she said, “That the chief of a province’s police force can display not only insensitivity but, more alarming, ignorance reflects on the quality of what is supposed to be the country’s main law enforcement agency and explains why media murders and human rights violations in general continue to be committed with impunity.”
The newly elected National Press Club President Joel Sy Egco, who is our senior reporter, is right to criticize the Aquino administration for “failing to give a strong directive to law enforcers and justice personnel to work doubly hard in addressing the problem of the killing of journalists with impunity.
“Acts of intimidation against media men are an affront to press freedom. Each death becomes part of government statistics, a main ingredient in the administration’s lip service,” Egco said in a statement.
“As we mourn the passing of another brother in the profession, we warn Mr. Aquino that in the end, he will only have himself to blame for allowing media killings to become a flourishing trade under his watch.”