On the eve of the anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre that claimed the lives of 32 journalists in 2009, a new plan brought new hope to the Philippines to improve the safety of journalists and to tackle the issue of impunity.
The comprehensive Philippine Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists (PPASJ),launched on 22 November 2019, was the result of almost two years of multi-stakeholder consultations, which took place around the country involving journalists, media outlets, journalists associations, academia, police, military, government bodies, and UN agencies.
The Philippine Plan of Action, through its comprehensive strategy aims to address the issues through five main areas: 1. Integrity and Professionalism; 2. Conducive Working Conditions; 3. Safety and Protection Mechanisms, 4. Criminal Justice System; 5. Public Information, Journalism Education, and Research.
“Not to plan is to surrender our fate. Not to plan should not be an option for the Philippines and many other countries worldwide experiencing similar challenges,” said Ramon Tuazon, president of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, which coordinated the coalition of stakeholders called Journalists Safety Advisory Group (JSAG) in the consultative process.
The PPASJ was developed under the Safeguarding Press Freedom in the Philippines Project with support from the European Union and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and International Media Support (IMS). UNESCO provided technical advice throughout the process as well as supported the launch of the PPASJ.
According to the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists, 82 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 2006 when UNESCO first started the Director-General’s Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity. This includes the 32 journalists killed in a single day during the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009. It remains the worst attack on journalists in the world.
UNESCO is the lead UN organization tasked with implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which was adopted by the UN Chief Executive Board in 2012. The Philippines Plan of Action is anchored in the UN Plan.
Safety of journalists is a crucial part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) especially Goal 16 related to peace, justice, and strong institutions. Indicator 16.10.1 of the SDGs specifically includes safety of journalists as an indicator for the goal.