Director-General condemns killing of Philippines journalist Philip Agustin and voices alarm at increasing threats against the mediaThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the murder of Philippines publisher and editor Philip Agustin and voiced alarm at the reported increase in threats against journalists in the country.
“I condemn the murder of Philip Agustin,” the Director-General declared. “Once again, I call on the authorities in the Philippines to do all in their power to punish the culprits of crimes against journalists. Media professionals in the country have been paying an unacceptably high tribute and it is urgent for the sake of democracy that the authorities end the spiralling violence unleashed against the media. The actions of criminals who use intimidation and murder to muzzle journalists are incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy and rule of law. They are also contrary to the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.”
Mr Agustin, the publisher of the community-based weekly Starline Times Recorder, was gunned down in Dingalan town, in Aurora province north of Manila, on May 10. He was the fourth Philippines journalist assassinated in 2005, according to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). There are reports that the killing may have been linked to the scheduled publication by Mr Agustin of a story about the alleged disappearance of municipal funds.
According to Reporters without Borders, six journalists were killed in the country during 2004 because of their professional activities, while seven others were murdered for motives that could not be established with certainty. Assassination attempts are reported to have been carried out on ten others.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) recently reported that it has been informed of a rash of death threats to journalists in both print and broadcast media.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this purpose the Organization is required to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”