Newsbreak Editor Receives Death Threats

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the Philippines government to urgently investigate a series of threatening messages sent to Newsbreak editor-in-chief Marites Danguilan Vitug in the national capital region of Manila in the past week.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, Vitug received two text messages from an unknown mobile phone number.

One of the messages reportedly said,“Your kind is the reason why journalists are being killed. Ampatuan had valid reason to kill those journalists. I wish you were one of them.”

The message refers to the massacre of 58 people including 32 journalists in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. Several family members of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr including his son Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr were arrested as suspects in late 2009.

The threats follow the release of Vitug’s controversial book, Shadow of Doubt on March 16 which deals with allegations of corruption against judges of the Philippines Supreme Court.

Vitug is also facing a libel suit filed by Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco for an article she wrote about him last year.

The NUJP quoted Vitug as saying she made the threat public “because this is the best protection.”

“In an environment where attacks on press freedom are frequent and violent and all too often unpunished, all measures must be taken by authorities to quash any potential risk to the personal safety of individual media personnel,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“Only by actively pursuing justice against all perpetrators of violence against the Philippines media will the authorities be able to send a message that such impunity will no longer be tolerated.”

The IFJ stands in solidarity with the NUJP and other local media organisations as they honour the courage of their colleagues in commemorating the four-month anniversary of the November 23 massacre today.

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