Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday issued a directive creating a task force that will look into the killing of media persons in the Philippines.
In a briefing at the presidential palace, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said a special body will be chaired by Justice Secretary Vitalliano Aguirre.
It will comprise representatives from various government department, the Commission on Human Rights, law enforcement agencies, as well as representatives from media organisations who will sit as observers.
“The president signed Administrative Order No. 1, creating the Presidential Task Force on Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of the Members of the Media,” Andanar announced.
Duterte’s order cited as reasons for its creation the continuing attacks on journalists.
“In May 2015, Unesco revealed that on average, one journalist is killed every week around the world, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that the Philippines ranks third in the world in terms of journalists killed in the line of duty,” the text reads.
“Whereas, according to the Human Rights Watch 2014 World Report, the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, and that killings and enforced disappearances remain a serious problem in the Philippines and rarely result in a successful prosecution and punishment of the perpetrator.”
It added that the unabated attacks on people working in the media industry are “not only erosive of press freedom and free expression but also impede the flow of information in a community.”
“A free press and media perform the necessary function and providing accurate, fair and relevant information which is vital for a free citizenry to perform its duty of monitoring government actions and communicating its views to the government,” it said.
The Philippines has long been plagued with killings and attempted murder of journalists and other media workers for many years, starting from the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos during the 1980s.
The latest victim was a radio broadcaster Apolinario Suan of Real FM who was able to survive and attempt on his life.
Another person, Dodong Suan, who was together with him in his SUV when the attack in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur took place, died.
According to media watchdogs, one of the reasons why media killings continue is because most of the cases were unsolved.
Only a few perpetrators have been brought to justice, if any.
“The present administration declares a matter of policy that all of these forms of political violence and abuses of powers, whether by agents or elements of the state or of non-state forces against the members of the so-called Fourth Estate, must stop …” Duterte’s directive said.