This report is originally published on Center for International Media Assitance’s blog. The Philippines is Asia’s first democracy. A country where freedom of…
In the spotlightNovember 16, 2015
THE PARADOX OF ‘FREEDOM OF THE PRESS’ IN THE PHILIPPINES
This report is originally published on Center for International Media Assitance’s blog.
The Philippines is Asia’s first democracy. A country where freedom of expression and of the press are constitutional rights.
Although the Philippines is not a war-torn country, with 77 journalists killed in the last 20 years, it is the world’s third-deadliest country for journalists, behind Iraq and Syria, and worse than even Russia. Such a baffling paradox for a democratic country.
Worst attack against journalists
This month marked the start of the filing of Certificate of Candidacy for next year’s national elections in the Philippines. A time reminiscent of a horrendous incident six years ago when 32 defenseless journalists were massacred.
In November 2009, Esmael Mangudadatu, gubernatorial candidate from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, sent a convoy that included his wife, lawyers, and some relatives to file his certificate of candidacy in Sultan Kudarat. Journalists joined them to cover the story.
The convoy was stopped at a hilltop in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao by more than a hundred armed men. All 57 people, including the 32 journalists, in the convoy were brutally killed. Some were beheaded, and the women were reportedly raped. A state-owned backhoe was used to bury bullet-riddled corpses, in an attempt to clean up the crime scene.
The rival political clan of Ampatuans was believed to have plotted the ambush. The clan’s patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. was the incumbent governor. His son, Andal Jr, was running against Mangudadatu at the time. Both were declared prime suspects.
The carnage in Maguindanao was the most horrific election-related violence in the history of the Philippines, and also the world’s worst-recorded attack against journalists.
The Maguindanao massacre changed the landscape of freedom of the press in the Philippines. It also exposed the many flaws in Philippine democracy, which become even more evident during elections.
In the Philippines, especially in the rural regions, local governments are disguised feudal systems. Political families have been ruling towns and provinces for decades. Government seats are their family’s heirloom. The government’s money is their clan’s wealth.
These political families splurge on luxury while the greater population suffers poverty.
Local journalists who investigate and expose corruption in the government suffer a wide range of harassment. Worse yet, many of the hard-hitting journalists were killed.
Culture of impunity
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 68 of the 77 murder cases of Filipino journalists remain unresolved. Those reporting on politics and corruption accounted forthe highest number of death.
For years, perpetrators of crimes against journalists enjoy shameful impunity in the Philippines.
In the six years that have passed since the Maguindanao massacre, none of the more than 100 suspects has been convicted. A number of witnesses and loved ones of the victims were bribed into silence. Several witnesses were killed.
One of the witnesses, Dennis Sakal, a former driver of Andal Ampatuan Jr, was killed in an attack on his way to meet a prosecutor in November last year.
The prosecution is inching its way through the Philippine judicial system. To date, the case is still in the bail petitions phase. Families of the victims and civil society organizations have continually criticized the government for the slow process of justice.
Several families of the murdered journalists reported threats and intimidation. Many were also suffering financially, as most of those killed were breadwinners.
In March, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, one of the suspects, also son of Andal Sr., was ordered temporarily release after posting a whopping PHP11.6-million ($250,000) bail. Now, he is back in politics, running for mayor of town Sharif Aguak in Maguindanao. Sajid Islam is running against his cousin and sister-in-law.
Andal Ampatuan Sr. died of a heart attack in July, asserting his innocence until he slipped into a coma, according to his lawyer.
Despite the massive outrage, Ampatuans still enjoy high positions of power.
Getting away with murder
Philippine media is among the most progressive in the world. Backed up by a nation known as a social media powerhouse, the media in the Philippines is also among the most innovative.
Despite all this, it is baffling that Filipino journalists remain among the most vulnerable to threats and violence.
A close analysis of these murders reveals that most of those killed are working in rural regions. This also exposes the gap between the national media and the community-based media in the Philippines. A system where the national media, especially the celebrity presenters, are much glamorized, popular, and highly paid, while those working in rural communities are paid less but subjected to more threats and violence, and have marginalized access to training and other opportunities.
The combination of a very slow justice system, poor forensic technology, and a predominantly feudal system of local governments equates to an alarming culture of impunity–where for perpetrators of crimes against journalists, getting away with murder is child’s play.
Makoi Popioco is a journalist and the current Hurford Youth Fellow with the World Movement for Democracy at the National Endowment for Democracy
In the spotlightOctober 26, 2015
APPLY: 2016 Asia Foundation Development Fellows Program
The Asia Foundation Development Fellows program provides highly qualified, young professionals from
Asia with an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and gain in-depth knowledge of
Asia’s critical development challenges. The year-long career advancement program draws on The Asia
Foundation’s extensive 18-country network and deep expertise working with innovative leaders and
communities across the region.
See the complete guidelines here:
In the spotlightOctober 20, 2015
Corruption In Disasters
In a rare opportunity, three remarkable youth activists, from countries affected by the world’s worst disasters in recent years, discuss corruption in disaster responses.
Their stories show the disturbing realities currently happening in disaster locations in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, in the Philippines after the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan, and in Myanmar after this year’s massive flooding.
Despite the billions of dollars of aid received, thousands of disaster victims remain homeless. Humanitarian aid, if not outright stolen, is ineffectively disbursed or questionably liquidated. Displaced victims ultimately suffer a wide range of human rights abuses.
Paneled by Haitian social activist Louino Robillard, Burmese youth leader Saw Htet Aung, and Filipino journalist and World Youth Movement for Democracy Hurford Youth Fellow Makoi Popioco, this documentary is a call for justice for all marginalized victims of disasters, internally displaced people, and refugees all around the world.
Help us get people talking about corruption in disaster responses! Share this on your social media accounts.
In the spotlightOctober 9, 2015
Member Spotlight: Juan Jose Diaz
What first got you interested in youth issues?
I was always curious about how in my country’s political and civil society spaces, young people never got the important decision-making roles; we were not even taken into consideration. That is why since I was a youngster, I decided we should have an important representation in these spaces, but for this we have to earn them. So I would say I didn’t get interested in specific youth issues, instead I am interested in general Costa Rica’s development goals and how we as youth, can contribute to achieve them.
On the International side of my activism, as a member of a Costa Rican Youth Liberal movement, I got involved in a trip, where I had the opportunity to share with young activists from the Latin American region. Of course I was aware of the Human Rights violation people suffered in other countries, but hearing those experiences from them was a mind opener, so I decided it was time for me to join their fight for freedom and that I could also create consciousness inside my party’s youth, through these experiences.
What are some of the groups and activities you are involved in?
Nowadays, I have the opportunity to be part of two organizations. Locally, I am a member of the “Juventud Libertaria” executive committee, the youth wing of Costa Rica`s Liberal Party, “Movimiento Libertario”. From this role, we try to empower our youth to take on decision-making roles and promote their participation in Costa Rica’s elective positions.
In the region, I am also involved as the General Coordinator of the Latin American Network for democracy. In this network, we raise our voice against government degradation of freedom, political human rights and democracy. We also compare good initiatives for youth that have been effectives in our countries and try to apply them in countries with a poor democratic background.
Recently, we also started an electoral observation mission, where we gather activists and give them the opportunity to learn about each country’s democratic processes.
What is the situation in your country right now that makes your organization’s work particularly relevant?
The youth’s perspective on the political class is really negative. This has caused that we as youth, don’t go out to execute our democratic rights such as voting or applying for democratic positions.
We as a youth network for democracy, incentivize youth to participate in these democratic expressions and teach them that nobody is going to open up these spaces for them, they have to take them. We also give them the tools they need to overcome these democratic processes the same way an adult would, because in the end, they can do it as good as they do.
If you could have any policy or law reform happen in your country right now, today, what would it be?
Personally, I would change the policy that establishes a minimum age requirement to be elected in political spaces. I think that with good guidance, training and specific skill sets, youth can participate in each and every one of the different areas as well as people meeting those age requirements can.
What is your favorite quote and Why?
“The Youth are not the future; they youth are the present”
This phrase comes to life in our region, where we can find that youth represents a big percentage of the demographic distribution, but we need to know how to open up our own spaces to bring this phrase to reality.
In the spotlightSeptember 11, 2015
Are you Ready for World Youth Day for Democracy? Get Excited, Get Involved!
World Youth Day for Democracy 2015
Every year, we celebrate World Youth Day for Democracy on October 18th! This year, the theme isHonoring Democracy Youth Leaders: Heroes in our Global Communities
Young people around the world have been making strides to #MoveDemocracy forward. Their commitment and dedication to promoting human rights, reinforcing democratic values and affecting change has been instrumental in building and sustaining strong democratic institutions and movements. Every day, youth leaders challenge the norms and stereotypes around them that are constructed to stifle their voices. They relentlessly continue to #MoveDemocracy in spite of the injustices and inequality they may face simply because they are young. Youth leaders continue to mobilize and inspire change in the face of marginalization, the restrictive laws their governments enforce, the conflicts within their countries, and the threats made on their lives. Activism is a dangerous job. On World Youth Day for Democracy, join us as we honor democracy youth leaders who we consider to be heroes in our global communities.
How to Apply: Please nominate outstanding youth activists in your communities that continue to #MoveDemocracy forward. Submissions should include a picture of the youth activist and include 3-5 sentences about how they are: promoting human rights, reinforcing democratic values, and affecting change.
*Youth will be able to nominate themselves.
Submissions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “honoring democracy youth leaders”
Submissions are due: October 7th, 2015.
A selection of entries will be featured on our website, social media platforms and disseminated across our global networks.
Let the world see how you #MoveDemocracy!
In the spotlightAugust 18, 2015
Meet our New Hurford Youth Fellow: Makoi Popioco
I am Makoi Popioco, the new 2015 Hurford Youth Fellow!
I am a journalist from the Philippines. In the last three years, I have been assigned to covering major disasters—super typhoons, earthquakes, and armed conflicts—that ravaged the Philippines.
I have documented the life of disaster victims, their plight to survival and recovery, after disasters. Doing stories about them, I have always been frustrated about the government’s neglect in providing timely and just aid for these victims. Humanitarian relief is a noble endeavour and it is so sad, that even this, is not spared from corruption.
In the Philippines, government disaster funds and donations are unutilized, misused, and the disbursements are postponed so that government officials could use them to win votes for the upcoming elections.
I know these issues are not only present in my country. Recently, civil society organizations in Myanmar raised concerns over the delayed provision of aid to hundreds of thousands of flood victims of the recent typhoon. In Haiti, thousands are still homeless, more than five years after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 2010.
Disaster transparency, and the protection of the rights of disaster victims are global issues. I am looking forward to hearing your stories in one of my online discussions here.
In the spotlightJuly 1, 2015
WYMD supports the World Movement's #Set Them Free Campaign
Find out more about how you can #help set them free
In the spotlightFebruary 11, 2015
Iniciando conversaciones sobre Latinoamerica y el Caribe
Parecer ser una realidad para todos que la situación de los Derechos Humanos en Latinoamérica es un tema que amerita atención y mucho trabajo en estos dias. La represión, la intimidación y el intento de supresión de derechos como la libertad de expresión, el derecho de asamblea o de asociación, el derecho a protestar o a pensar distinto (disentir) están en el ojo del huracán desde unos meses en nuestros países latinoamericanos.
Esto por un lado ha impulsado a muchos más jóvenes a trabajar por lograr el respeto de las libertades y establecimiento de mejores condiciones en sus distintas naciones, muchos más jóvenes nos hemos involucrado con temas políticos, con activismo y organizaciones de sociedad civil. Aunque por temas que no suelen ser positivos, esas situaciones adversas han estado sacando un lado positivo de nuestras sociedades: el espíritu de lucha democrática de muchos de sus jóvenes.
Y el World Youth Movement for Democracy es un espacio que trabaja para apoyar estos liderazgos, por eso que queremos fortalecer la presencia de temas relacionados a Latinoamérica y el Caribe en nuestros espacios digitales. Fomentar las publicaciones de noticias, oportunidades, reportes o consultas referentes a la región, y propiciar espacios para la interacción de la comunidad miembro del WYMD en torno a estos contenidos.
Para iniciar estas publicaciones queremos conocer sus opiniones sobre el anuncio del restablecimiento de relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos, anunciado el pasado 17 de diciembre de 2014 por los gobernantes de ambas naciones.
¿Crees que esta es una nueva oportunidad para el activismo democrático en Cuba?
¿Crees que ahora habrá oportunidades para los jóvenes cubanos de tener acceso a las tecnologías y nuevas formas de comunicación?
¿Qué retos crees que implica esta medida para el activismo democrático de la isla y la región?
¿Cómo ves la gestión de libertad y amnistía para los presos políticos de la isla, tras este anuncio?
¿Cómo crees que influirá esta decisión en la cooperación democrática entre jóvenes de la región?
Por favor comparte tus opiniones, esperamos sus comentarios. – ATNC
In the spotlightOctober 21, 2014
Thanks for your involvement with World Youth Day for Democracy 2014
World Youth Day for Democracy was a success! Thank you for sending in all of your photos and videos in support of prisoners of conscience. We received many photos and videos from around the world. We look forward to using your contributions in our larger campaign with CIVICUS to urge the release of these human rights activists!
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