BARMM assures journalists of protection, assistance

ALI G. MACABALANG

COTABATO City

Media practitioners working in or covering the Bangsamoro region have been assured of security from work-related threats and of prompt monetary assistance, in time with the recent commemoration of International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists.

 Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo, Bagnsamoro government spokesman and Local Governments minister, made the assurance in a press briefing here on Nov. 2 at a time the International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists was observed globally.

Minister Sinarimo said the regional government would not want a repeat of the dark part of history, particularly that of the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre that claimed the lives of 58 persons – including 32 media workers – in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, a component province of the Bangsamoro autonomous reion.

“We made this commitment earlier and we are reaffirming it today that your government would ensure that impunity for the crimes against journalists do not happen in the region,” Sinarimbo pointed out at the press conference.

Sinarimbo, known locally for his cordiality in service, acknowledged the vital role of free press in society, where some powerful forces sometimes wanted to curb or curtail truth via extrajudicial means.

The current autonomous region replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) via R.A. 11054 that was enacted in July 2017. One of the founding elected officials of the defunct ARMM was being suspected of his role in the disappearance of a media practitioner and the near-fatal ambush of another.

Sinarimbo said the Bangsamoro government is willing to assist journalists under threat to seek refuge in it or be given security escorts or legal services.

He said informal assistance will be offered and, if needed, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may be called on for interventions in journalists’ field coverage.

“If you feel threatened or in any way receive threats from anyone, please feel free to call us or communicate with us by any means and we will make sure that we provide the necessary assistance for you, that (is) the commitment from the chief minister and Bangsamoro government,” Sinarimbo assured.

The MILF and the Bangsamoro government are both headed by Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim.

The BARMM government has reportedly allocated a trust fund for medical assistance, burial or calamity assistance for members of the media.

“While we are assisting the journalists on their welfare it doesn’t mean that they will report all praise on us. We are still open to criticism, to report or look on the gaps that we have not seen,” Sinarimbo said.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, celebrated every 2nd of November, highlights the low global conviction rate for violent crimes against journalists and media workers, estimated at only one in every ten cases.

Based on the United Nations’ website information from 2006 to 2019, close to 1,200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed  November 2 as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ in General Assembly Resolution that urged member States to implement definite measures to counter the present culture of impunity.

The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013. (AGM)

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