Philippines high court to allow live broadcast of Maguindanao massacre trial

[JURIST] The Philippines Supreme Court [official website] said Tuesday that it would allow the live broadcast [press release] of the November 2009 Maguindanao Massacre [CSM backgrounder; JURIST news archive] trial subject to guidelines set by the court. The court decided to allow broadcast coverage in this particular situation involving the trial of several members of a clan accused of killing 57 people, including 31 journalists, supporting a rival political candidate. But the court's guidelines could pose problems for potential broadcasters. The court will not allow broadcasters to bring in their own cameras, but will instead provide a single, stationary, widescreen camera. No panning or zooming in will be allowed and broadcasters will have to show the entire proceedings from beginning to end each day commercial free. There is also not allowed to be any voiceovers during the proceedings nor will repeat airings be allowed until after the final judgment. The Philippines Department of Justice (PDOJ) [official website] had implicated Andal Ampatuan Sr., the leader of a Muslim clan in the Philippines' semi-autonomous southern province of Maguindanao, and several of his followers in the November 2009 slayings of campaign workers, journalists and supporters of family political rival Esmael Mangudadatu. The court noted that broadcasting the trial was important because of the impossibility of fitting the large number of interested parties into the courtroom, including the families of those killed and of the witnesses.

Earlier this month, a Philippine court froze USD $23 million worth of assets [JURIST report] owned by the Ampatuan family, who are accused of ordering the 2009 slayings, while investigators determine how the Ampatuans accumulated accumulated the assets. In March, a Quezon City court dismissed rebellion charges [JURIST report] against 24 people, including Ampatuan Sr. Days earlier, a court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for 189 suspects. The PDOJ had already charged 197 people with murder [JURIST report] in connection with the November 2009 killings. In December 2009, the PDOJ began the trial [JURIST report] of more than 600 people charged with rebellion for allegedly interfering with government operations following the killings. Several of Amapuan Sr.'s sons, including Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of the southern Philippine town of Datu Unsay, have also been charged. Amapuan Jr. has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to 41 counts of murder. The Ampatuans and several of their followers are alleged to have intercepted Mangudadatu's convoy en route to declare his candidacy for governor at a regional election office, ultimately forcing his convoy to a remote hilltop where the Ampatuans' group killed and buried them.

 

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