Dear President Aquino,
Congratulations to you and the Filipino people for an inspiring exercise in democracy. As press freedom and free expression advocates from around Southeast Asia, our wish is for that same democracy to finally see an end to the impunity that has been allowed to kill off hundreds of Filipino journalists since 1986.
We urge you to demonstrate the political will sorely lacking in the previous administration to protect media workers, and to bring the perpetrators and masterminds behind the killing of Filipino journalists to account.
Philippine democracy will not thrive nor survive without a healthy environment for press freedom. Such an environment demands that journalists be allowed to work without having to fear for their lives or liberty. It demands rule of law. It demands justice. It also demands government's earnest and sincere participation in a multisectoral effort (involving national and local officials, the military, the police, communities, and media providers and consumers themselves) to raise public awareness and appreciation for the role of a free press in democracy and development. Most certainly, that environment will benefit from your own strong and unequivocal message to all sectors and stakeholders that any attack on journalists is an attack on press freedom and human rights, and on the Filipino people themselves, and therefore will not be tolerated.
You have an opportunity to immediately set your administration and leadership apart from, and in stark contrast to, the past apathy and ineptitude that has given the Philippines the unfortunate image of being one of the most murderous countries for journalists in the world. We urge you to seize this opportunity to honor a free press that has done much and well to restore and protect Philippine democracy. May that same democracy that brings you to power be allowed to protect the free press in turn.
Note: Sourtheast Asia Press Alliance or Seapa (www.seapa.org) is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow if Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association; and the network's Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Center for Independent Journalism.