Unity Statement on the killing of Nestor Libaton and other attacks on the Davao Oriental media

DEFEND THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO KNOW; DEFEND THE MEDIA! END IMPUNITY IN DAVAO ORIENTAL!

We, members of the working press representing various media organizations in the Davao region, express our strong condemnation on the recent murder of yet another journalist working in Davao Oriental, Nestor Libaton last May 8.

The killing of Libaton has put media workers in this province in more peril as they risk their profession and their very lives in their duties as journalists.

Media attacks in Davao Oriental have intensified in the past years. On 2010, there was the murder of radio blocktime announcer Jesiderio Camangyan, known for his hard-hitting commentaries against illegal logging. Until now, the case against the murder suspect has dragged on.

That same year, another radio announcer Nonoy Bacalso was slapped by the provincial governor inside the radio booth, following Bacalso’s comments against illegal logging operations reportedly protected by the governor’s brother and mayor of that town. Another block-time announcer, Joanna Mabini was stopped from going on-air as she was suspected of feeding Bacalso such information.

Two days after Libaton’s murder, another radioman, Lito Labra, has received messages through his cellphone condemning his commentaries against mining activities in the province.

The fate these journalists experienced shows how perilous it is for media in Davao Oriental to express critical opinion against authorities and businesses that have low tolerance for criticisms.

In fact, not only media workers face this kind of intolerance.

Other sectoral leaders of the province have also faced threats for defending the communities against logging and mining. There are those who experience harassments in the course of defending their rights. Sr. Stella Matutina, an advocate against mining, is now a target of the military as they tagged her as a member of the New People’s Army. Some leaders of peasant organizations in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental who are critical of a landlord family in Sitio Capsa Barangay Poblacion now face trumped up charges. They have also reported of being harassed by the military.

In 2009, Eulogio Baltazar, an officer of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources office (PENRO) who was critical to illegal logging and mining activities in Davao Oriental was murdered. Ludenio Monzon, a lumad leader who opposed mining in their community was shot dead in the same year.

Under such background of impunity, Libaton’s death sends a chilling effect not only to media, but also to those who are critical of the situation in Davao Oriental. It intends to show that those in power cannot and should not be subject to criticism.

But we media workers know that the attack against one of our ranks is also an attack against the tenets of freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. For when media and other sectors become silent, who then will defend the people against the abuses of people in authority and the plunder of resources?

We raise our cry not only for justice for Nestor Libaton, but we also raise our cry to protect journalists in their line of duty. Task forces to solve killings are not enough this time. Police investigations should point out the masterminds that would most likely be those who hide in the cloak of authority.

Until then, we do not cower or step back from our duties. Let us press forward the right of the people to know and to defend media workers in the battleground for truth and justice.

#

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)– Davao City Chapter
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) – Mati City Chapter

Advisory:

We are calling on colleagues to join a mass action on Thursday, May 17, 1pm at the Freedom Park of Mati in Davao Oriental, the day colleague Nestor Libaton will be buried. Please wear black.

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