Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Journalism's deadliest day, revisited

24 September 2015
Bodies unearthed from a mass grave shortly after 58 people were killed near the village of Ampatuan in the Philippines' province of Maguindanao in November 2009. Among the dead were 32 journalists and media workers. (Nonoy Espina)

In November 2009 in the Philippines, a convoy of dozens of journalists, lawyers and political activists were traveling to register an opposition candidate for governor of a province called Maguindanao.

The group of cars were stopped on the road by armed men in broad daylight. Fifty-eight people from the convoy were then shot to death, including 32 journalists and media workers.

Suspicion immediately fell on the incumbent governor of Maguindanao, a man named Andal Ampatuan Sr. Ampatuan came from a powerful clan that rules this corner of the Philippines through its own private militia.

The government named 193 people connected with the Ampatuan clan suspects in the massacre, including dozens of local police. But as we approach the six-year anniversary of the killings, not one single person has been convicted for their role in the atrocity.

On this edition of Global Journalist, the legacy of the Maguindanao massacre and a look at why reporters are killed with impunity in the Philippines.

Our guests this week:

  • David Kaye,  the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression.
  • Bob Dietz, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • Nonoy Espina, director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and senior editor of the Filipino news site InterAksyon.

The convoy was traveling to file the registration for the gubernatorial race for a local politician from the Ampatuan's rival clan, the Mangudadatus. The candidate, Esmael Mangudadatu, had received word that the convoy might be threatened and chose to stay behind, sending his female family members along with a large group of journalists. He had calculated that his foes would not attack women and the media.

Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre, died in July without ever facing trial. His son, Andal Ampatuan Jr., is alleged to have led the killing. The case against him and others has lasted more than five years, during which time key witnesses have been killed and prosecutors and judges have allegedly been offered bribes for leniency.


Info graphic by David Crespo

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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