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Journalists train to face threats

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[File photo of journalists rallying after the 2009 massacre of 32 reporters.] MANILA – Amid the upsurge of killings of Filipino journalists the past nine years, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has come up with safety counter measures for members of media to undertake, particularly those who are under threat.

Chief Supt. Arturo Cacda, PNP director for Investigation and Detective Management and concurrent head of Task Force Usig, the unit tasked to investigate the killings of journalists, said that journalists under threat should limit their “movements” and “exposure predictability” to deny would-be assassins from undertaking violent action.

Task Force Usig crime investigators have identified the victim’s movement and exposure predictability as the common factors among most reported cases of slain journalists over the past nine years.

Cacdac pointed out that “predictability has become the greatest enemy of journalists under threat and the best ally of assassins.”

“With a few exceptions, attacks have occurred at or just a short distance from the victim’s residence. The exceptions occurred at or near the victim’s place of employment or along routes consistently used by the victim at about the same time of day,” he said.

“The victim’s movement and exposure predictability provide a simple operational reason why a victim’s residence or a point near his residence is the best choice as site of an attack,” Cacdac added.

“As a regular routine, the victim comes home, and he has to leave his residence each morning to go to work. It is at this point in space and time where a potential target is most vulnerable. To a much lesser extent, the time of a potential victim’s arrival at home is also predictable,” he said.

“The level of predictability of a potential target determines how easily he or she can be identified as a target for assassination, kidnapping or harassment,” he said.

These observations by police security experts have been prominently noted in the Handbook on Personal Security Measures for Media Practitioners published by the PNP as part of continuing efforts to provide protection to journalists who face threats due to the nature of their profession.

The Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) has printed an initial 2,000 copies of the 48-page handbook for circulation to the Police Regional Offices and local media clubs in various regions in the Philippines.

Among other topics on personal security, the Handbook examines, on one hand, how an attacker uses predictability as a consideration in selecting a target, and on the other hand, the measures that a potential target can take to enhance his personal security.

Since 2001, the PNP Task Force Usig has recorded 39 work-related fatal attacks against media personalities. Task Force Usig has solved 85% of these cases of slain journalists.

But the most gruesome was the infamous Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people, including 32 journalists in the province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines on Nov. 23, 2009. The trial has started last month after nine months of delay.

PNP Director General Raul M. Bacalzo said the publication of the handbook “is timely as no less than President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has directed the PNP to address the unlawful killings of media and militants, particularly the investigation of cases as well as boosting security measures for those under threat.”

“The intention is to provide media practitioners with the basic knowledge and practical skills in securing themselves and their family, determining possible threats and improving communications among all concerned including local PNP units,” Bacalzo said.

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