KEEPING THE STATE AT BAY: The Killing of Journalists in the Philippines, 1998-2012

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In Southeast Asia the Philippines holds the distinction of reporting the highest number of murdered journalists between 1992 and 2012. This record makes the Philippines closer to countries in other parts of the world characterized as “transitional” democracies. These countries enjoy near full press freedom, but their institutional setting allows the perpetrators of crimes to evade accountability. The authors of this article argue that explaining these murders as due to state repression of progressive journalists in the Philippines ignores the complexity of these killings. This article shows that journalists murdered for their occupation (classified as “motive confirmed”) did not threaten the interests of the state as state but rather the interests of local power-holders. Thus, the killings of mass media practitioners need to be understood in the context of local-level contestations over positions and resources sanctioned by the state framework, particularly following the decentralization since 1991. Preliminary data analysis of journalist deaths from 1998 to 2012 and selected case studies suggest that these killings are primarily local events, mostly in provincial towns and cities.