A Call to Action for the Protection of Journalists in the Philippines

Marcelo B. Fernan Cebu Press Center, Cebu City, Philippines
23 November 2010

In a democracy like the Philippines, the people have the right to information so they can participate wisely in governance. It is the role and the duty of the press or the mass media to provide accurate information to the people so that the latter can make better decisions. But in order to perform that duty, the press must be free and responsible. We note however that in the Philippines the press has been hampered in the performance of this duty because of the killings of journalists.

We, the 104 delegates to the 1st Media Conference on the Protection of Journalists, in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, lament the unsolved killings of more than 130 journalists and media workers while performing their duties in the Philippines between 1986 and 2010.

We deplore:
Government inaction and the culture of impunity which gives rise to the continuing physical, verbal, sexual harassment, attacks on and killings of journalists and media workers in the country;

We assert:
The protection of journalists is paramount as the free and independent practice of their profession ensures the protection, promotion and fulfillment of the democratic rights of the people especially their right to know, to speak and be heard;

Therefore we declare:
1. The State, with all its agencies and instrumentalities, is primarily responsible for the safety of all citizens including the news media. It must also immediately act to end the culture of impunity where innocent civilians including journalists and media workers are killed and to observe in letter and in spirit United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 of 2006 on the safety of journalists in conflict situations, the Geneva Conventions and all its protocols, and all local and national laws pertaining to the protection of its citizens;

2. News organizations should develop, implement and institutionalize “Duty of Care” for all news personnel they engage and provide appropriate safety, first aid, and trauma training, equipment, and insurance or other financial provision for death or disability when they cover dangerous stories such as wars and other forms of conflict, crime and corruption, natural and human-induced disasters, and health emergencies. Such provisions must be non-discriminatory and cover staff, freelancers, stringers, media support staff, talents, and other contract workers;

3. Journalists, media owners, press groups or associations, and media development organizations should discuss and agree on appropriate and acceptable operational procedures governing safety, first aid, trauma, and post-trauma stress management of media workers and journalists. The media organizations should set aside competition where the lives of journalists, media workers and civilians are in danger and if and when necessary collaborate with state security and disaster response management agencies;

4. Media development organizations must endeavor to promote safety training in their programs for journalists and media workers. Likewise, they must extend assistance to smaller news organizations that lack resources to provide adequate protection for their staff, correspondents, and stringers;

5. While news organizations must bear the cost of safety care for their news staff, freelancers, stringers and media workers, community vigilance and civic engagement are also needed to safeguard the people’s right to information;

6. Journalists, media workers, and freelancers should help ensure each other’s safety in hostile environments;

7. The academe, specifically journalism and communication schools, and media organizations must intensify media-academe cooperation programs to better prepare students, journalism trainees and would-be journalists before they enter real-world journalism;

8. Journalists, media workers, and freelancers must also work together through the exchange of ideas and experiences in employing conflict-sensitive reporting especially when covering situations of crisis and violence;

9. Journalists and news organizations must continuously adhere to responsible, ethical, and quality reporting in order to enhance media-citizen engagement, thereby ensuring a safe environment for journalism practice;

10. Journalists must further professionalize their craft by working to attain a system of standards which ethically balance news coverage and reporting for the people they serve and, eventually, to explore the concept of accreditation for the practice of journalism, and

11. News organizations, media development organizations, and journalists are encouraged to build solidarity within the media.

In conclusion:
The conference further agrees to continue follow-up actions in relation to the points raised by this Declaration and to provide updates to the conference organizers, International News Safety Institute, Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, and Center for Community Journalism and Development, about these actions, in partnership with other organizations or individually. The Declaration and subsequent actions will be sent to the UN Secretary General for the annual review of the safety of journalists under the terms of UN Resolution 1738.

Read also: Killing Journalists: When law and order and justice system fail

(CJJ12 was published in hardcopy in September 2017.)