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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 10:58 a.m.) Media workers and press freedom advocates were urged to observe “Black Thursday” by wearing clothes of this color to condemn unabated media murders and the Aquino administration’s wanting performance in the fight against impunity.
The call was sent out in a text message late Wednesday night by Rowena Paraan, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), who called on the group’s members to “join in mourning for a fellow colleague and our anger over the unabated attacks by wearing black tomorrow (May 17).”
Thursday is also the day colleagues, including members of the NUJP chapters in Davao and Mati cities lay to rest Nestor Libaton of Mati, who was gunne down on May 8 in Tarragona, Davao Oriental.
He was the fifth media worker killed in as many months this year and the 12th under the current administration.
On January 5, unidentified motorcycle-riding men shot publisher and broadcaster Christopher Guarin of General Santos City.
Aldion Layao, a former reporter and radio block-timer -- who was on leave to serve as a village councilman in Davao City -- was shot dead on April 8.
Bombo Koronadal City driver-reporter Rommel Palma was murdered on April 24. Then, on April 30, unidentified assailants murdered Michael Calanasan, a columnist of a local daily in Laguna.
Members of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club here wore black shirts the whole day.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the continued killings of our colleagues in media and alarming rise of the culture of impunity,” JB Deveza, COPC vice president for print and NUJP Mindanao Media Safety Officer, said in a phone interview.
A local advocacy group that started out as a virtual forum in Facebook also joined “Black Thursday” to express their solidarity with the media community and mourn the killing of “(media workers) who have risked their lives so that we may know the truth.”
“Bangon Kagay-an joins mainstream media practitioners by wearing black in observance of Black Thursday today -- in memory of those mediamen who have risked their lives so that we may know the truth. May (the) perpetual light shine on your dearly departed media colleagues and may the Lord enlighten the hearts of the people so that the freedom of the press is respected and observed in our city. Mabuhay and CdO press,” the group posted on their Facebook wall early Thursday morning.
In a statement, the NUJP chapters of Davao and Mati expressed their “strong condemnation on the recent murder of yet another journalist working in Davao Oriental.”
“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. 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,” the statement said.
However, the chapters said they would “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.”