Every Sunday afternoon, radio journalist Rolando “Dodong” Morales hosted a weekly program from 4 to 5 p.m. known as the “Voice of the Village.” The program dealt with a variety of topics and issues — everything from illegal drug trafficking in the area to suspicions that local officials were involved in frequent and unauthorized executions.
Morales spoke out against any type of crime and corruption, despite the death threats he often received. He believed that exposing the truth was part of his job as a journalist and part of his civic duty as a citizen.
July 3 was the last time Morales had the chance to broadcast his views and opinions.
Soon after finishing his program on that fateful Sunday, Morales and a companion hopped aboard his motorcycle. They drove away from the station, traveling along the busy national highway near the town of Polomolok, located on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Suddenly, the pair were ambushed by eight people riding four motorcycles and carrying M-16 rifles. The assailants opened fire. When Morales stopped and fell to the ground, the eight suspects got off their bikes and proceeded to beat him. Then they shot him again. The autopsy revealed that Morales had been shot at least 15 times.
Morales was the sixth journalist murdered this year in the Philippines,
according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
Cuban journalists jailed
It is known as “Black Spring.”
In March 2003, the Cuban government conducted a massive crusade throughout the country to stop growing criticism of the state. By the time the operation was finished in early April, it had arrested nearly 30 independent journalists and 50 political dissidents.
During closed hearings, the court found each one of the journalists guilty. The People’s Supreme Court summarily dismissed all appeals. The men began serving sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years in prison because they had published articles that “were against the independence and territorial integrity of the state,” according to Reporters Without Borders.
Although six of the writers were released without explanation in 2004, more than 20 remain in jail this year. Despite criticism and pleas from such media watchdog agencies as Reporters Without Borders and Committee to Protect Journalists, there has been little response from the Cuban government concerning either the sentences or the living conditions of the prisoners.
The government never made public the charges against these journalists. Essentially, though, each writer committed the “crime” of publishing one or more articles that were deemed critical or derogatory of the Cuban government. Law 88, which Cuba’s National Assembly passed just six years ago, is designed to punish those who give information to the United States that could harm the country of Cuba in any way.
Reporters Without Borders began a multimedia campaign in March that is designed to bring international attention to this particular situation. For more details, visit their Web site: www.rsf.org
20,000 miners die?
No journalist or news organization seems to know exactly how many miners are killed each year in China. The number might be as high as 20,000 in 2004 alone.
Xinhua News Agency, the official press office of the People’s Republic of China, reported that mining accidents killed 6,027 miners last year. However, many people, both inside and outside the country, believe that the true number of deaths is two to three times higher.
According to the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, a labor rights group that focuses on China, thousands more miners die every year but the government never reports them. China Labour Bulletin research director Robyn Munroe said that a senior Chinese official told a CLB staffer in June that, “Oh, you think you’re impressing people with that figure that the government puts out. Actually the real figure is more like 20,000 or more every year.”
Until someone in the media is able to investigate this story, without the censorship of the Chinese government, the world might never know precisely how many miners are dying each day. One thing is certain, though: With 70 percent of the country’s energy needs derived from coal, the country will require many more miners in future years. Precisely how many is uncertain because no one knows the total number of private and state-run mines; estimates range from 28,000 (the official figure) to 200,000 mines from outside sources.
Bruce C. Swaffield is a professor of graduate studies in journalism at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. He holds a B.S. from Kent State University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Miami. In addition to working as a professional journalist for many years in South Florida, Swaffield has been teaching journalism and writing since 1983. He is a member of the SPJ International Journalism Committee and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.