RP militias on int’l list of ‘predators of the press’
Philippine Daily Inquirer
PARIS—Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday named the world’s 40 worst “predators of the press,” including politicians, religious leaders and Philippine militias, to mark World Press Freedom Day.
“They are powerful, dangerous, violent and above the law,” said the Paris-based RSF. “These predators of press freedom have the power to censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and, in the worst cases, murder journalists.”
Seventeen presidents and several heads of government are on the list, including China’s Hu Jintao, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Cuba’s Raul Castro and Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
New entrants on the annually updated list of “predators” include Taliban chief Mullah Omar.
The Taliban leader, “whose influence extends to Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, has joined the list because the holy war he is waging is also directed at the press,” the RSF said.
Mullah Omar’s “thugs threaten local reporters who do not relay his propaganda,” while around 40 Taliban attacks directly targeted journalists and news media in 2009, the group said.
“The threats to journalists reinforce the Taliban’s sway over the population and create news black holes in the south and east of Afghanistan and in western Pakistan,” the RSF said.
Private militias in the Philippines were also added to the blacklist following the massacre of 57 people, including 30 journalists, by “the local governor’s thugs” in Maguindanao on Nov. 23.
“We will continue to urge that the Philippine government aggressively and thoroughly pursue and bring to justice those responsible for the killings,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. said in a statement.
Thomas said that a free press “is just as much a pillar of democracy as elections are.”
100 slain under Arroyo admin
He assured that “Americans stand together with Filipinos in support of the members of the press, who labor every day to expose truth and enhance accountability.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that the next president who would be elected on May 10 should ensure that justice is done not only for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre but all journalists killed under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In a statement, the NUJP said that 100 of the 137 journalists slain in the Philippines since 1987 were killed during the Arroyo administration.
Members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines and Kabataan party-list group flew kites with a call that “every day should be press freedom day.”
Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin President Ramzan Kadyrov was also added to the blacklist.
Under Kadyrov, the watchdog said, “anyone questioning [his] policies… is exposed to deadly reprisals,” citing the murders of reporter Anna Politkovskaya and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova.
“Often referred to as ‘Putin’s guard dog,’ Ramzan Kadyrov shares the Russian prime minister’s taste for crude language and strong action,” the RSF said.
Victims of ‘dirty wars’
Yemen’s President Ali Abdulah Saleh was branded a “predator” after Sanaa set up a special court for press offenses, in what the RSF said was a bid “to limit coverage of dirty wars being waged in the north and south of the country.”
The entry on Saleh noted: “Eight independent newspapers are currently subject to a printing ban for ‘separatism.’”
“In Latin America, violence still comes from the same infernal quartet: Drug traffickers, the Cuban dictatorship, (Colombian guerrilla group) FARC and paramilitary groups,” the RSF said.
Italian organized crime, the Basque separatist group ETA and Somalia’s Islamist militias were also listed.
Figures whose names have been removed from the “predator” list include Nigeria’s State Security Service, which RSF said has “has been reined in.”
The Nigeria police force, however, “has emerged as the leading source of abuses against the press,” the RSF said, with poorly trained police “encouraged to use violence against journalists.”
The RSF also removed several Iraqi Islamist groups, arguing that while levels of violence remained high, journalists were no longer being singled out.
According to an RSF tally, nine journalists have been killed in 2010 and 300 media professionals are in prison. With reports from Agence France-Presse, Julie Aurelio and Bianca Geli in Manila; and Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao