• UN urged to look into killings of newsmen

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    ON International Human Rights Day, Media Defence Southeast Asia (MDSEA) pressed three members of United Nations special bodies to intervene in the spate of attacks against Filipino journalists.

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    In its four-page update with urgent appeal sent to the UN on Tuesday, MDSEA president and lawyer Harry Roque urged three bodies to intervene and investigate the “continuing” incidents of extrajudicial killings of journalists in the Philippines.

    These three are Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Chris Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; and Pable de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence.

    On November 23, during the commemoration of the Maguindanao massacre, Roque sent a letter of allegation to La Rue, Heyns and de Greiff to intervene in the extrajudicial killings of reporters surrounding the 2009 massacre that left 32 members of the media dead.

    Exactly two weeks after the massacre commemoration, two more journalists have been killed, prompting Roque to update his letter of allegation.

    “Urgent action from the three UN Special Rapporteurs is needed due to these on-going incidents of extrajudicial killings of journalists in the Philippines,” the letter read.

    MDSEA referred to the death of Joas Dignos, a radio commentator at dxGT Radyo Abante in Bukidnon province, who was gunned down in the evening of November 29 along Sayre Highway in the town of Valencia.

    Eight days after and more than 200 miles northeast in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur province, radio host Michael Diaz Milo of dxFM suffered the same fate after still unknown bikers followed him and shot him in the head.

    In their letter, Roque’s group reiterated that these killings “are violations” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both which protect and guarantee the journalists’ right to life.

    “The mere killing of one journalist is the ultimate violation of the right to freedom of expression,” the Malaysia-based group stated in their letter.

    They told UN representatives that the Philippines has to fulfill its obligations under international law to investigate incidents but needed assistance for none has been convicted since the Maguindanao massacre.

    “Journalists are frequently subjected to such threats, intimidation and attacks because of their activities. All such attacks should be vigorously investigated in a timely fashion, and the perpetrators prosecuted,” read the letter to the UN, which highlighted salient parts of a comment of the UN Human Rights Committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    MDSEA said the three UN rapporteurs are needed due to these prevailing incidents of extrajudicial killings of media men in the country.

    Roque specifically asked, among others, the UN bodies to conduct a country visit to the Philippines to investigate these killings.

    Also, recommendation to the Philippine government to adopt measures such as passing relevant laws or strengthening the justice system to address violations against journalists is sought.

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