Thursday, November 26, 2009

Freedom of the press stands endangered in Maguindanao massacre

The recent massacre of 57 persons led by suspect-mastermind Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr, is done at its most gruesome and bloodthirsty incident ever! Among the ones killed by the suspected private army of Ampatuan Jr are 27 journalists, 2 lady-lawyers out of 14 women, and other men.

The motive of the massacre stands that Ampatuan Jr does not want any opposition to his candidacy in the upcoming gubernatorial race for May 2010 elections. The convoy was on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town for governorship of Maguindanao.

The Maguindanao killing sends the message that it is ‘politically motivated’ for what else and how else will you consider such a barbaric and desperate act of one who wants to wield power to himself and his family. Former governor Ampatuan Sr had been grooming his son Andal to take over as governor of Maguindanao.

Mangudadatu who did not join the convoy was spared from the killing although his wife, three sisters and an aunt were killed in the bloody massacre.

The presence of journalists, including women, must have been seen as a protective shield for the convoy to proceed smoothly to file Mangudadatu’s candidacy to COMELEC. The convoy and its composition sends the message that things are not fine without the presence of the candidate to personally file his certificate of candidacy.Indeed it says something is definitely wrong . Long time politicians of Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao are known to have their own private armies to protect themselves and ensure their continuing power.

The recent case in Mindanao has demonstrated the selfish and inhuman arrogance of one who thinks that he is free from the rule of law. This kind of lot needs to be banished for they see the world according to their narrow and selfish interests that they own the world and that no one should mind their own business. Surely, the obvious practice of this barbaric thinking is best left to be discarded much more so that they hold public responsibility.

And for Mangudadatu and his obviously unarmed convoy, it says that private armies and warlordism is not the way to be.

Yet the obviously unarmed convoy was a costly trip. It cost their lives.

It also cost freedom of the press and expression a downturn in southern Mindanao. Two of the murdered journalists are reporters of a 5 year old pioneering local newspaper. Ten of the journalists came from General Santos City; two from Davao City, another ten from Koronadal City; four from Tacurong City; and one from Cotabato City. Five are freelance writers; 13 print journalists; three on radio DZRH, Bombo radio and DZRO; and two on UNTV.

When journalists are opinion makers are silenced, it is a dangerous world.
The powerful and the corrupt will further go corrupt and powerful. The oppressed and the helpless will be silenced and exploited.

For journalists and opinion makers compose the lot how information flows from the source to the world. From information, people will know how to address and analyze issues and make a better world. For what is life for but to make it better?
So we go down to memory lane and note that information was shared by blowing the horn, drumming the drums and floating bottles on the seas, scribbling or tapping on the walls in order to get the news through.

In the present world, writers, journalists, columnists send the news and commentary through the internet, radio, TV, and print and help shape public opinion, like condemning a gruesome act.

Yet, in the line of duty, journalists face danger every day. The November 23 killings have increased the number of journalists killed numbering up to 81 already killed in the Philippines since 1986. Press Emblem Campaign reports 59 journalists around the world were killed this year. This, apart from those killed in Maguindanao.

Meantime, desperate Andal Ampatuan Jr who is currently detained and charged for multiple murder frantically pointed to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the one behind the massacre, yet MILF told the public that Ampatuan’s claim is ‘absurd’.

Definitely absurd!

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