Impunity runs high in three democracies . . .
On Tuesday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual Global Impunity Index, which tracks the number of journalists who are killed in retaliation for their reporting but whose murders go unpunished. Four Asia-Pacific countries made this year’s list: the Philippines (#7), Myanmar (#8), Pakistan (#10), and India (#11). Three of the four – India, Pakistan, and the Philippines – are among Asia’s most populous democracies. The CPJ bases its rankings on the number of such murders over the previous 10-year period in proportion to the country’s population.
Criminality behind many South Asian killings . . .
While the presumed motives and perpetrators vary within and across countries, in South Asia, journalists investigating organized crime seem especially vulnerable. For example, in May, Indian journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto was shot and killed outside his home in the state of Bihar. He had been looking into the illegal production and sale of liquor. A recent report from Pakistan notes that not only criminal gangs but also insurgent groups are among the top perpetrators. Bangladesh did not make this year’s list, as it fell just short of the CPJ’s threshold of five unsolved murders. Nevertheless, in February, a UN report described an “appalling and pervasive culture of impunity” for the killers of that country’s journalists.
Politics at play in Southeast Asia . . .
Like India and Pakistan, the Philippines has appeared on the Impunity Index every year since CPJ began publishing it in 2008. There had been hopes that the country’s media would find a safer environment after former president Rodrigo Duterte, who was openly hostile to the press, left office in June. But those hopes were quickly dashed; in September, Renato Blanco, who was investigating local politics and corruption in the central Philippine island of Negros, was fatally stabbed. And in October, Percival Mabasa, who had been critical of both Duterte and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was killed after being ambushed in his car by two armed gunmen. Among the most brazen killings, however, were those committed by Myanmar’s military government. According to the CPJ report, two freelance reporters had been arrested in separate incidents for photographing anti-regime protests. They were later killed while in custody.
- Al Jazeera: Is Percy Lapid’s murder a bellwether for the Philippines?
- CNN Philippines: PH still 7th worst country in prosecuting journalists’ killers - report
- Voice of America: Military coup propels Myanmar into Global Impunity Index