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PHL still 3rd on global media impunity list, falls in press freedom index

The Philippines maintained its status as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, ranking third in an international media watchdog group's impunity index—a list that measures deadly unpunished violence against the media. In its impunity index for 2013, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists noted this was the fourth straight year the Philippines ranked third in the list of countries where "journalists are slain and the killers go free." The Philippines also fared poorly in the press freedom index of another international media group—Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders)—for 2013, falling seven notches to 147th from 140th last year. "Despite President Benigno Aquino III’s vow to reverse impunity in journalist murders, the Philippines ranked third worst worldwide for the fourth consecutive year. [At least 55] journalist murders have gone unsolved in the past decade," the CPJ said of the Philippines. CPJ noted there were 0.580 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants so far this year, or 55 unsolved cases for a population of 94.9 million—slightly better than the 0.589 unsolved murders per million inhabitants in 2012. It cited the murder of broadcaster-environmentalist Gerardo Ortega in January 2011, where authorities linked prominent local officials to the crime. "But the case suffered a severe blow in 2013 when an alleged conspirator who had turned state witness was killed in prison," CPJ noted. The CPJ quoted Ortega's daughter Michaella as saying each time a witness is killed, “it affects the morale of other witnesses by showcasing how inept the government is in ensuring their safety.” On the other hand, it said another key problem against impunity is the insecurity of witnesses, as it cited the progress of the prosecution of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. "Authorities in the Philippines ... have yet to make headway in the prosecution of dozens of suspects in a politically motivated massacre in Maguindanao province that claimed the lives of more than 50 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, in 2009. Three witnesses in the Maguindanao case have themselves been murdered, one of them dismembered and mutilated," it noted. Ranked near Iraq Only two countries ranked worse than the Philippines on the CPJ's impunity index: Iraq, and Somalia. Other countries in the list include: 4. Sri Lanka (ranked fourth in 2012) 5. Colombia (ranked fifth in 2012) 6. Afghanistan (ranked seventh in 2012) 7. Mexico (ranked eighth in 2012) 8. Pakistan (ranked 10th in 2012) 9. Russia (ranked ninth in 2012) 10. Brazil (ranked 11th in 2012) 11. Nigeria (not in 2012 index) 12. India (ranked 12th in 2012) CPJ said its 2013 index "examines journalist murders that occurred from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2012, and remain unsolved." It includes in its list only nations with five or more unsolved cases. It considers a case unsolved if no convictions have been won. CPJ defined murder as a "deliberate attack against a specific journalist in relation to the victim's work." "Murders make up more than 70 percent of work-related deaths among journalists, according to CPJ research. This index does not include cases of journalists killed in combat or while carrying out dangerous assignments such as coverage of street protests," it said. Meanwhile, CPJ said its analysis found journalist murders have slowed in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Colombia, and Afghanistan, though "deep problems remain in each nation." 147th on Press Freedom index On the other hand, the Philippines fell seven notches this year in the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders). It ranked 147th in this year's index among 179 countries, falling behind Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Palestine, though ahead of Russia, Singapore, Iraq, and Myanmar. Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Andorra occupied the top five places in this year's press freedom index, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea occupied the bottom three slots (177th to 179th places). In 2012, the Philippines ranked 140th behind Thailand, Morocco and Uganda. — BM, GMA News