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Kick-off of national effort to address the safety of journalists in the Philippines
05 Nov. 2018

Red S. Batario, President of the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) and Nonoy Espina, Chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in discussions on a Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists. Photo: Helle Wahlberg/IMS

The first ever multi-stakeholder consultation on the Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists takes place on Manila on 7 November where civil society, government officials, media and academia meet to discuss ways to improve the safety of journalists in the Philippines.

Finding common ground in an environment where government, civil society organisations and media have traditionally been at odds when it comes to addressing free and independent media is not an easy feat. Nevertheless, a broad selection of stakeholders joined forces to lay the first building blocks for a national Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists in a country that has been identified among the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.

“More than 80 people are joining us from over 40 different CSO and media organisations, including government representatives from the Department of Justice and the government-appointed Presidential Task Force on Media Security. This number is a good indicator of the support for safety of journalists in the Philippines,” says Ramon Tuazon, president of the Asian Institute of Journalism Communication (AIJC), which is implementing the project Safeguarding Press Freedom in the Philippines in cooperation with International Media Support (IMS).

The restoration of press freedom in the Philippines under the 1987 Philippine Constitution did not prevent threats and violence against journalists and media workers in the country. From 1986 to 2018, 157 work-related killings have been documented by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). While most existing international monitoring initiatives and databases focus on killings of journalists, news reports reveal that journalists are also facing physical attacks and threats including cyber bullying and hacking of their social media accounts and websites. Moreover, a climate of impunity for crimes against journalists and political activists exists despite both government and civil society initiatives to address the situation. International monitoring groups have therefore ranked the Philippines among the most unsafe countries for journalists.

In light of this, there is a declared need to create a Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists that falls under the auspices of the overall UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The 7 November consultation in Manila thus kick-starts a yearlong national consultation of how best to structure the action plan and ensure buy-in and commitment from all relevant stakeholders.

“This first consultation conference provides us all with an opportunity to break down the walls within and between our sectors – between civil society organisations and media, between government and media and so forth in a quest to achieve our common goal – improving the safety of journalists in the Philippines,” Ramon Tuazon emphasises. “We all have a tendency to work in silos – now we must open our minds and seek unity to reach our common goal.”

The work on a national plan for the safety of journalists will build on and improve existing safety initiatives in the Philippines by member organisations of the Journalist Safety Advisory Group, which provides advice and guidance on the action plan development. Similarly, the consultations will also draw from experiences of safety mechanisms in other countries as presented in the 2017 IMS global study “Defending Journalism: A study of safety mechanisms in seven countries,” focusing on best practices.

For more information on the Philippine Plan of Action consultation process, contact Ramon Tuazon. at 

The consultation meeting is a part of the programme “Safeguarding press freedom in the Philippines” implemented by AIJC and IMS with support from the European Union and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.