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Aquino, Philippines Urged to Halt Epidemic of Attacks on Journalists

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The Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C., has issued an international appeal today calling upon President Benigno Aquino and the Philippine government to make it a higher national priority to address political violence directed against journalists and press freedom in the Philippines. The statement condemns the apparent assassination of radio talk show host and journalist Maria Len Flores Somera who was murdered last Thursday near her home in Malabon city, in metropolitan Manila.

In the wake of the radio journalist “Len” Somera’s murder, the international appeal also urges support for Bishop Felixberto Calang’s request that the United Nations monitor the ongoing Maguindanao (Mindanao) massacre trial.

“We urge President Benigno Aquino, and the Philippine government, to make it a higher national priority to address the recent murder of journalist Maria Len Flores Somera as well as the epidemic of violent attacks on press freedom, and individual journalists, in the Philippines,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA).

The statement regarding the murder of journalists in the Philippines was issued in Washington, D.C. and Manila by Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA.

The CPPA is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank and research organization focused on foreign policy, human rights, humanitarian affairs, economic development and other public policy issues. http://centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

“We condemn, in the strongest terms, the unconscionable murder of radio talk show journalist Maria Len Flores Somera which appears to many in the international community as yet another example of political violence and efforts to silence freedom-loving journalists and people in the Philippines seeking reform,” Smith stated.

Somera, 44, was a broadcaster for DZME radio in Manila, prior to being killed on March 24. According to Philippine National Police (PNP) sources, she was shot with a pistol, execution-style, point blank, by a male assailant.

“Mrs. Somera was popular to radio listeners in Manila, in part, for her tireless dedication to freedom of expression and investigative reporting on issues of concern to the public and ordinary people, including matters of government inefficiency, incompetence and corruption among some officials in the Philippines,” Smith said in the CPPA’s statement.

Excerpts of the CPPA’s international appeal and statement continued:

“Tragically, this appears to be another act of political violence, and horrific human rights violations, directed against journalists in the Philippines who seek to freely and fairly inform the public about current events and developments, including issues of governance, public service and corruption;”

“We urge President Benigno Aquino, and the Philippine government, to make it their highest priority to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for this terrible crime against Maria Len Flores Somera, and her family, as well as the Philippine people, civil society, and the Philippine nation;”

“The international community and Filipinos around the world have expressed shock, outrage and sadness regarding the murder of Mrs. Somera and the ongoing pattern of systemic violence directed against journalists in the Philippines, which urgently needs to be addressed by President Aquino and the Philippine government;

“We urge President Benigno Aquino, and the Philippine government, including the judiciary and courts, to do significantly more to seriously provide full justice, and comprehensive psycho-social assistance, to the suffering family members of the 57 people, including 32 journalists, murdered in the political violence and attack in Mindanao, Maguindanao province ( Magindanaw ), on November 23, 2009…;

‘We appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to monitor the Maguindanao massacre trial as requested by Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church, and others, especially given troubling reports of ongoing delays, the resignation of state prosecutors, and the disappearance and intimidation of witnesses;

“Seriously address the concerns and complaint filed earlier this month before the UNHRC by the families of journalists Maricel Vigo, Juan Pala, Dennis Cuesta, Fernando Lintuan, and William Yap Yu who reportedly assert that the Philippine government has egregiously violated the rights of their loved ones, who were killed between 2000-2007, in apparent disregard of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)…;

“We are concerned that press freedom, and key institutions of civil society, are increasingly under attack in the Philippines as sadly symbolized by the murder of Maria Len Flores Somera and other journalists,” Smith concluded in the CPPA’s international appeal and statement.

The CPPA has issued previous statements and appeals regarding the world’s largest known single massacre of journalists which occurred in Mindanao, Philippines on November 23, 2009. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1102/S00381/philippines-urged-to-assist-families-of-slain-journalists.htm

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines ( NUJP), and others, have also called on authorities in the Philippines to promptly investigate the murder of Mrs. Somera.

According to reports by DZME Radio, GMA News, and others, the National Press Club of the Philippines and the Alyansang ng Filipinong Mamamahayag, two media groups in the Philippines, have said they have raised thousands in monetary funds, some 50,000 Philippine Pesos (PHP), for anybody who can provide information leading to the arrest of the gunman and plotters in Mrs. Sumera’s bloody killing

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement earlier this month expressing concern that an accused Maguindanao province mastermind, allegedly involved in the mass killing of 32 journalists in Ampatuan, Mindanao, on November 23, 2009, may go free. http://www.cpj.org/2011/03/accused-maguindanao-mastermind-may-go-free.php

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