MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) condemned on Monday the recent attacks against journalists, including the gun attack on photojournalist Joshua Abiad and the death threats against a fact-checking organization Vera Files.
Such incidents, which erode press freedom, should serve as a reminder for the government to take proactive measures that protect media workers, the CHR said in a statement.
“CHR expresses solidarity with the media community in strongly condemning the gun attack of Remate Online photojournalist Joshua Abiad and his family, and the death threats against fact-checking media organization VERA Files,” the CHR said.
“CHR continues to reiterate that acts of violence and intimidation against media professionals and news outlets contribute to impunity and the erosion of press freedom, which negatively impacts the foundations of our democracy and the integrity of our society. May these incidents serve as a reminder to the government to continue to take proactive measures that will ensure the welfare and safety of media practitioners and all individuals to prevent further violence and create a safe and secure environment for all,” it added.
CHR also said that its Metro Manila office had started an independent probe of the incidents.
“In line with our mandate to protect and promote the right to life, liberty, and security of all individuals, and uphold press freedom, the CHR-National Capital Region is also doing its parallel and independent probe to aid in uncovering the truth on the aforementioned incidents,” CHR stated.
The CHR meanwhile lauded the PNP for acting quickly in probing the Abiad case.
“CHR notes the immediate action of the PNP to create a special investigation task group dedicated to probe the shooting incident. We also acknowledge their efforts to secure the Abiad residence. In a recent statement, the Quezon City Police District has ruled out Abiad’s profession as a photojournalist as the motive for the attack but did not disclose further details to not preempt the investigation results,” CHR said.
“We are hopeful of the investigation being done by relevant law enforcement agencies towards bringing perpetrators to justice. No stones must be left unturned on any case that attack and threaten fundamental rights and freedoms,” it added.
Looking for motives behind shooting
According to the Quezon City Police District, Abiad and his family were in traveling in a car last June 29 when it was blocked by another vehicle at the corner of Corumi corner Gazan Streets in Barangay Masambong
Two unidentified individuals then repeatedly opened fire on the car.
Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan, chief of the Public Information Office of the Philippine National Police, said investigators were already looking for anything in Abiad’s media work that could have prompted the attack.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary Paul Gutierrez, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, mentioned that Abiad was tapped as a witness in court by the PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in illegal drug cases.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) meanwhile denounced the death threats against Vera Files, as images of two men brandishing assault rifles were sent to them.
—WITH A REPORT FROM BEA ALICIA DELARIARTE (TRAINEE)