For the first time in eight years, the Philippines is not included in the list of the 20 deadliest countries for journalists.
"For the first time since 2007, CPJ did not document a single journalist killed in direct relation to work in the Philippines," the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a report released Tuesday.
The CPJ, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, said it recorded at least seven media deaths in the country this year, but the "journalists were killed in unclear circumstances, and CPJ continues to investigate these cases for a work-related motive."
The seven journalists killed in the country this year include:
- Jose Bernardo, who worked for DWBL and DWIZ Radio and Bandera Pilipino. He was killed Oct. 31, 2015
- Cosme Maestrado of DXOC Radio, killed Aug. 27, 2015 in Ozamiz City
- Teodoro Escanilla of DZMS Radio, killed Aug. 19, 2015 in Barcelona, Sorsogon
- Gregorio Ybañez of the Kabuhayan News Service, killed Aug. 19, 2015 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte
- Melinda "Mei" Magsino of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, killed Apr. 13, 2015 in Batangas City
- Maurito Lim of dyRD, killed Feb. 14, 2015 in Tagbilaran City
- Nerlita Ledesma of Abante, killed Jan. 8, 2015 in Balanga City, Bataan
The CPJ said that it began compiling detailed records on journalist deaths in 1992 and assured that its staff apply strict journalistic standards when investigating a death.
“One important aspect of our research is determining whether a death was work-related. As a result, we classify deaths as 'motive confirmed' or 'motive unconfirmed.' We consider a case 'confirmed' only if we are reasonably certain that a journalist was murdered in direct reprisal for his or her work; was killed in crossfire during combat situations; or was killed while carrying out a dangerous assignment such as coverage of a street protest,” it said.
“We do not include journalists who are killed in accidents such as car or plane crashes. We include only confirmed cases in the statistical analyses in this database,” it added.
It further explained that when the motive is unclear, but it is possible that a journalist was killed because of his or her work, the CPJ classifies the case as "unconfirmed" and "continues to investigate."
“We regularly reclassify cases based on our ongoing research,” it said.
Based on CPJ's records, the Philippines has been in the top 20 list of deadliest countries for journalists since 2007.
The country even ranked first in 2009 following the Maguindanao massacre, where 58 people were killed including 32 journalists.
4th in impunity
Meanwhile, the Philippines ranked fourth in the world in terms of impunity in the killing of journalists, based on a separate CPJ study, the Global Impunity Index for 2015.
The New York-based group's Impunity Index calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population.
The CPJ said though the country has dropped to fourth from third on the Impunity Index, the Philippines remains the only country within the top five impunity offenders not engulfed by conflict and acute political instability.
"At least 44 murders have taken place since September 2005 with complete impunity; seven have occurred under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III," CPJ said.
"Justice for the 32 media victims and 26 others slaughtered in the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao appears more elusive than ever. No one has yet been convicted of the crime and, after six years of protracted legal proceedings, the suspected mastermind has now died of natural causes," it added.
The group said the numbers show that the political will needed to prosecute the assailants is absent.
Syria deadliest for journalists
Meanwhile, Syria was the deadliest country for journalists with 13 recorded killings followed by France with nine.
The CPJ said that 69 journalists were killed in the line of duty worldwide, including those murdered in reprisal for their work as well as those killed in combat or crossfire or on other dangerous assignments.
This year's total journalist deaths, between January 1 and December 23, is higher than the 61 journalists killed in 2014.
It said Islamic militant groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda were responsible for the killing of 28 journalists worldwide this year, which is 40 percent of the total number of journalists killed in relation to their work.
Nine of these killings took place in France.
The CPJ also said that unlike in the past three years, the deaths were widely distributed across countries. At least five journalists were killed in each Iraq, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Sudan, and Yemen.
It further said that the declining number of deaths in Syria reflects in part the reduced number of journalists working there, after many major international news organizations chose not to send staff to the country and local journalists fled into exile.
“But the lower number of confirmed killings in Syria also reflects the increased difficulty that CPJ found in researching cases there and in other places ravaged by conflict, including Libya, Yemen, and Iraq,” it said. —ALG, GMA News