By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — It has been eight years since the worst election related violence and deadliest single attack against journalists happened in sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province and justice has not still been served.
But the surviving families of the victims, fellow journalists and human rights defenders have not wavered in the fight for justice and against impunity.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet chapter reiterated that that gruesome incident on November 23, 2009, where 58 people including 32 media practitioners were murdered upon the order of a political clan who has ruled Maguindanao for decades should not be forgotten.
It can be recalled that the mastermind of the Ampatuan massacre even planned to bury all the evidences of his evil deed, cars with the bodies of victims all together in a huge grave dug up by backhoes days before the actual massacre on that hill in sitio Masalay. But the truth refused to be buried.
NUJP Baguio-Benguet chapter offered prayers for justice, read poems and sponsored a talk on how to ensure truthful reporting amid the proliferation of fake news as their contribution to the continuing fight for justice and against impunity last November 23 at the Indigenous People’s center at Burnham Park.
November 23 is also observed in the country and the world over as International Day to End Impunity because of the Ampatuan massacre.
In a statement, the NUJP national directorate said that journalists continued to be murdered with impunity.
NUJP recorded five journalists killed under the Duterte administration bringing the total of media killings to 178 since 1986, the supposed restoration of democracy in the country.
Inday Espina-Varona who spoke at the forum pointed out that the media does not exist in a vacuum. She said that the social construct where economic and political power is in the hands of the few that allows the extrajudicial killings with impunity is the very same system that murders journalists.
In the same manner, Varona said that fake news does not exist in a vacuum. “The social media is the same as the universe we live in,” she said.
Varona said that repression and disinformation have been going on since time in memorial, way before the advent of social media.
Varona reiterated that repression and disinformation are tools of governments and the few ruling elite to perpetuate themselves in power. She said that the powers that be has corrupted the media as part of their efforts to maintain the status quo.
NUJP monitoring shows that journalists who report about corruption, injustice and the people’s struggles toward genuine social change are the ones being killed and are the targets of threats, harassment and vilification.
Varona said that the only way to combat fake news and media repression is truthful reporting, “coming out with a story that can not be questioned”.
Varona said that journalists must go to the communities and talk to the masses to be able to come out with truthful reports. She said that the journalist must gather all the pertinent information and must sift through all the data and be able to determine the true story instead just doing a “he said, she said”. # nordis.net