To fight impunity, cycle of fear, silence must be broken
María Salazar-Ferro / Coordinator, Impunity Campaign & Journalist Assistance Program
Three years ago, on November 23, 2009, 30 journalists and two media workers were brutally killed in the southern Philippine city of Maguindanao while travelling in a convoy with the family and supporters of a local politician. To this day, not a single suspect has been convicted, though local authorities have identified close to 200. The botched trial has been stalled with procedural hurdles. Victims’ families have been threatened and key witnesses have been slain.
More than 630 other journalists have been targeted and murdered worldwide in direct retaliation for their reporting since 1992, CPJ research shows. Like those killed in Maguindanao, a vast majority were local reporters covering issues of vital importance to their communities: corruption, politics, crime, conflict and human rights. At least four in 10 were threatened before they were killed. One in 10 was tortured.
The killers’ message is clear: Journalists, be silent or die. But the message from authorities is also unambiguous. With perpetrators behind bars in only one of 10 cases, there seem to be no obvious consequences for those who use murder to censor the press.
Faced with these facts, journalists working in countries where their colleagues have been murdered with impunity tend to self-censor. They avoid dangerous beats, and ignore risky stories. Developments corruption, politics, crime, conflict, and human rights go unreported. People living in their cities and countries go uninformed, and are unable to hold power accountable. They are collectively stripped of their basic right to information.
In memory of the Maguindanao massacre and to protest the ensuing egregious lack of justice, freedom of expression advocates worldwide are joining forces on the second International Day to End Impunity. We are demanding justice for murdered journalists, and working to empower those still reporting to do so without fear of reprisal.
As part of this joint effort, CPJ is launching Speak Justice: Voices against Impunity, a digital campaign to fight impunity from the ground up, one voice at a time. Watch our trailer here, and find out more about impunity and how it affects your life. Share the video and help us break the cycle of fear and silence that allows journalists to be killed and their murderers to walk free.