GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 October) – Sixteen journalists from various media entities operating in this city and nearby provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces gathered here Saturday afternoon to formally revive the defunct local chapter of the National Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP).
The group held a general assembly, the first in three years, to officially reconstitute the NUJP-General Santos City chapter, elect a new set of officers and set its initial programs and activities.
Freelance journalist Edwin Espejo was elected as chairperson of the revived NUJP chapter, which was first formed in 2004.
Espejo, who was among the chapter’s pioneering members, writes for the Asian Correspondent, Newsbreak, MindaNews and several other online and print news organizations.
The other elected chapter officers were Allen V. Estabillo of MindaNews as vice chairperson; Philip Salarda, station manager of Catholic Media Network’s dxCP, as secretary-general; and Rhea Lara of ABS-CBN General Santos as treasurer.
Aquiles Zonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent and the chapter’s pioneering chairperson, described the revival of the NUJP chapter in the city as timely and a very important step towards the promotion of press freedom as well as the welfare and safety of media workers in the area.
He cited that General Santos City had been considered as among the country’s hotspots in terms of media killings as it posted the highest number of journalists who were killed in the line of duty since democracy was restored in 1986.
Based on reports released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a total of 21 journalists from the city had been killed since 1986.
Fourteen of the 32 media workers who were killed on November 23, 2009 in the infamous Ampatuan massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province came from this city.
The massacre left a total of 58 persons dead.
“It’s very important for us here to band together and take the necessary actions to ensure that none of these will ever happen to us or any of our colleagues,” said Zonio, who presided over the chapter’s general assembly.
The city’s NUJP chapter was organized in 2004 at the height of the nationwide campaign against media killings.
In 2005, local NUJP members assisted an IFJ-led fact-finding mission on the cases of media killings in the country.
The result of the fact-finding mission, which was conducted on January 23 to February 1, 2005, was published by the IFJ in a report titled: “A Dangerous Profession: Press freedom under fire in the Philippines.”
In July, a group of local journalists initially signified their desire to revive the city’s NUJP chapter in a meeting with NUJP national secretary-general Rowena Paraan.
An ad hoc organizing committee led by Espejo was created last September 24 in a meeting that followed an NUJP-led training on investigating corruption attended by Paraan and NUJP’s Mindanao Safety Office coordinator JB Deveza.
Espejo said the newly-revived NUJP chapter will pursue programs and activities focusing on the promotion of press freedom as well as safety and welfare of media workers in the area.
He said the group is planning to launch several activities in line with the second anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre. (MindaNews)