After Philippines Massacre, Concerns About Impunity
Erik Jensen offered his perspective on the massacre of journalists on Mindanao in the Philippines:
While the death toll rises in the Philippines after the Nov. 23 massacre, international media organizations are pushing for justice, amidst concerns of impunity.
More than 57 civilians, including 26 journalists and media workers were murdered in Maguindanao Province (on the southern island of Mindanao), journalists who went to the massacre site told Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The Philippines has a long history of impunity and slayings of journalists, according to Erik Jensen, senior research scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, at Stanford University.
“This is the most daring attack on journalists in Philippine history, and maybe the sheer numbers and brutality will assure action where we’ve seen inaction in the past,” he said. “In an event like this, it could be a game-changer, in a constructive way born out of tragedy.”
Jensen said there was still a danger that convictions could result in impunity. “Part of that is related to the peculiar evidentiary standards in the Philippine criminal justice system,” he said. “But it’s also related to these inside deals with politicians.”
Police investigators look for evidence on a mangled vehicle unearthed at the crime scene where human remains were dug up from a shallow grave after gunmen shot at least 57 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao Province on Nov. 25. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images) Jensen lived in the Philippines for four years representing the Asia Foundation as a senior advisor for governance and law.
“Having a slaughter like this … I really hope the government, as well as politicians in Mindanao, have a wake-up call,” Jensen said. “This is just beyond the pale of anything that we’ve seen in the past.”
Jensen said he met many journalists while in the Philippines, and that it has a long and proud history in the country. “It’s a ‘hurly-burly’ press in the Philippines, but amidst the hurly-burly press there are some truly world-class journalists. And they have a long history of acting courageously in the face of tragedy—though they’ve never seen a tragedy quite like this.”
“I can’t help but think this will have something of a chilling effect—certainly on press coverage in Mindanao.”