TACLOBAN CITY — The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) will launch a new campaign that seeks to protect media workers from attacks and promote professional and economic welfare of journalists in the country.
The campaign, dubbed as “PTFoMS 2020: Reinforced, Reloaded,” aims to protect the life, liberty and security of media workers as well as push for the passage of a law to uplift the economic welfare and skills of local journalists. This is slated to be launched in this city by end of January.
In a statement, PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said the task force, along with its media partners, will conduct safety, welfare and ethics seminars in various provinces.
To start the campaign, Egco said inter-agency tracker teams will be created to track down remaining Ampatuan massacre suspects who remain at large. The task force will print “Wanted” posters that will be posted all over the archipelago.
The massacre that claimed the life of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists and media workers, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on 23 November 2009, is considered a “dark chapter in Philippine media history” that placed the country among the most dangerous in the world for journalists.
Egco said that from being one of the most dangerous, the country now holds the distinction of having convicted the highest number of killers of media workers.
A total of 31 people, including principal suspects Andal Jr., Zaldy, Anwar Sr, Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid Ampatuan, were convicted on 19 December 2019 by Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.
Egco said that aside from the suspects in the massacre, PTFoMS has also uncovered 18 previous convictions on various cases of media violence, bringing the total number of convictions to 49, “an unprecedented feat in the history of the worldwide campaign against impunity.”
Presidential Human Rights Committee Undersecretary Severo Catura, who is also a member of the Task Force, has declared that the historic promulgation of the massacre case was both unprecedented and unmatched.
“Not since the post-world war Nuremberg trials of 1945 to 49, which saw the conviction of 18 war criminals has the world seen this large number of persons convicted by a single court,” Catura said.
PTFoMS, in the statement, said that while media violence in the country is a direct byproduct of the hostile or violent geopolitical environment, journalists are also prone to risks due to the performance of their duty, pursuit of their advocacy against corruption and criminality, and head-on crusade against the usual subjects of their criticisms.
To address the various vulnerabilities of the media sector, the Task Force has forged a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the ACT-CIS Partylist to push for measures seeking to improve the welfare of thousands of media workers in the country.
PTFoMS Co-Chair and PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar appealed to media workers to unite and support the campaign to pass the Media Workers Welfare Act (MWWA) into law.
“Our fellow media, especially in the provinces, have a high economic vulnerability. They become blocktimers. They look for supporters, sponsors, and more often than not these sponsors are politicians. If the politicians ask them to criticize an opponent, the latter becomes angry or annoyed. If it cannot be talked over, they’ll just shoot you,” Andanar pointed out.
He added the proposed measure also ensures capacity to avail of housing programs, regular employment, job security, and health benefits.
“This administration is working very hard to protect every media worker in this country who is threatened, and is also going after the criminals who have assassinated or killed other media workers,” Andanar said.
He furthered that media workers covered by the passage of the MWWA will be entitled to “humane conditions of work and a living wage, motivating them to perform their duties truthfully in a safe and protected working environment.”