MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) – The Philippines had the third most number of journalists killed last year and has continued to be among the countries where press freedom is imperiled, according to two international media watchdogs.
In its "Killing the Messenger" report released Tuesday, the London-based International News Safety Institute (INSI) said that last year 14 journalists were killed in the Philippines, next to Syria with 20 journalists killed and Iraq with 16.
The INSI reported that 134 journalists and media staff were killed in 29 countries in 2013, of which 69 happened in peacetime while the rest during armed conflicts in different parts of the world.
Of the 14 journalists killed in the Philippines, four were officially listed as having died while they were working at a radio station in Tacloban City in central Philippines when super typhoon Haiyan hit the area on Nov. 8, 2013.
According to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a local media watchdog, 10 other media workers, who were on duty when the typhoon struck, have remained missing and were presumed to have died.
Also late last year, three radio commentators in southern Philippines were gunned down within two weeks but up to now the killers have not been apprehended.
In the Philippines, particularly in the provinces, anyone can buy radio time where part-time commentators attack or malign their enemies on air. The object of these attacks often resort to hiring a professional killer to "silence" the commentator. Killings like these almost always remain unsolved in the Philippines.
According to the INSI, of the total casualties, 65 died covering armed conflicts, primarily in Syria and Iraq, while 51 were killed in peacetime covering issues like crime and corruption, and 18 died in accidents.
The total was down from 152 deaths recorded in 2012, but there was an accompanying rise in assaults, threats and kidnappings directed at journalists that largely go unreported, the INSI said.
Last week, the international media group Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders) also said that the media situation in the Philippines has remained in a "difficult situation" and the environment of freedom "has even worsened."
According to the RSF's "2014 World Press Freedom Index" the Philippines went down two notches to the 149th among 180 countries included in the index.
The Philippines ranked 156th in 2010 after the Maguindanao Massacre on Nov. 23, 2009 when 32 of the 58 people killed were journalists.
According to the RSF, the Philippines and Pakistan are among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
When Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took office in 2010, the country managed to climb to the 140th spot in 2011 before sliding down again to the 147th place last year.
Even the troubled countries of Mali (now ranked 122nd) and the Central African Republic (now 109th), which dropped more than 120 spots, were better off than the Philippines, the index showed.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Aquino administration has failed to make any "significant progress" last year to address impunity in media killings.
The HRW listed only 12 Filipino journalists killed in 2013 which has brought to 26 the total number of journalists killed since Aquino assumed office in June 2010.
According to HRW of the 26 media killings, police have arrested suspects in only six cases and the government has secured convictions in only two cases.
Reacting to the media watchdogs' findings, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Aquino administration is " committed" to pursue and prosecute the assailants of slain journalists.
"We will continue to ensure that there are no prior restraints to the exercise of press freedom," Coloma said.
But the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said that killing of journalists in the Philippines has remained unabated even during the present administration.
"The apparent apathy of the government toward killings and attacks against press freedom emboldens attackers to inflict harm as they go unpunished," the NUJP said in its Facebook page.