Maguindanao massacre kin go to UN for help
LOS ANGELES—The head of the United Nations General Assembly has called for greater protection for journalists after members of families of media workers killed in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre sought the help of the international body over the weekend.
“It is unacceptable that journalists are being murdered every year but the killers often go free,” said UN General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser in a press conference conducted on September 7 (September 8 in Manila) in response to a letter from the families seeking help in obtaining justice for their loved ones.
Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chairman Nestor Burgos handed over the letter to Nasser at UN headquarters in New York City. Burgos was part of an international delegation of human rights and media organizations that met with Nasser shortly before the press conference.
“We appeal for your help in preventing a denial of justice,” said the letter signed by representatives of the victims’ families.
At least 32 media workers were among the 57 people brutally killed by gunmen in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, on Nov. 23, 2009.
“Three years and yet justice for the victims of what can only be called a crime against humanity has continued to remain elusive,” the letter said.
Close to 100 suspects remain at large and only two of the principal suspects have been arraigned.
“At least three vital witnesses have been murdered, while we, the families of the victims, as well as those of other witnesses, continue to be harassed and offered bribes,” the letter said.
The delegation that met with Nasser was part of a coalition that was formed following an international conference on the safety of journalists held in Doha, Qatar, last January.
Nasser has called on governments to support the recommendations of the Doha Conference, which he distributed to the 193 UN members.
The Doha Conference recommended the creation of a unit to follow up on media cases at the Human Rights Council and to develop “new binding tools for states to accept the protection of journalists as a standing obligation.”
The recommendations also include adopting reforms to mechanisms and procedures “such as through regional security organizations” and expanding the mandates of Special Rapporteurs and relevant bodies to “develop further monitoring mechanisms, intrusive inspections and mandatory sanctions.”
“As president of the General Assembly, I reject all forms of attack, unlawful persecution or killing of journalists, whether they are working in the new or traditional media,” Nasser said.
The international delegation was composed of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) and media organizations led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The delegation included Ali Bin Samikh Al-Marri, NHRC chair; Jim Boumelha, IFJ president; Omar Faruk, president of the Federation of African Journalists; Celso Schroder, president of the Federación de Periodistas de América Latina y el Caribe; Mohamed Makram, general secretary of the Federation of Arab Journalists, and Gianfranco Fattorini, representing the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign.
“The killing of journalists continues to increase worldwide despite the plethora of international instruments, international human rights laws, universal human rights laws, covenants, declarations and resolutions which are simply ignored by many governments,” said Boumelha.
“Our message to the General Assembly is to use whatever mechanisms it has in its power to force member states to discharge rigorously their responsibility under international laws to protect journalists and put a stop to impunity,” he said.
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