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Philippine journalists’ union makes bodies from newspapers to commemorate Ampatuan massacre

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has created an art installation to commemorate the Ampatuan massacre, one of the largest mass murders of journalists in history that took place in November 2009 on the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Ampatuan Massacre

The installation re-creates the massacre, which saw 32 journalists killed in an ambush, with figures crafted from newspapers. The figures form the image that ran on the front page of a newspaper the day after the massacre, which claimed 58 lives in total. Those slain were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan.

Though the tragedy took place more than five years ago, 84 suspects remain at large, four witnesses have been murdered, and no convictions have been made. The media continues to be banned from covering the trial.

Leeroy New, an artist, helped visualize crime scene. He said: “Our use of newspapers to reenact the crime scene is in fact a direct reference to how the issue is slowly disappearing. And how the material – the newspaper as a material – is a very transient material. And it’s also a direct reference to the victims – the journalists who were killed.”

The agency behind the idea was BBDO Guerrero. Referring to the recent Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, where 12 journalists where killed by terrorists, the agency’s creative chairman David Guerrero said: “Recent events have brought home just how serious this issue has become. And for the NUJP the need to defend press freedom from violent attacks on journalists has never been more urgent. We are proud to be able to help them in any way we can.”

Mike Dobbie, expedition lead for the International Federation of Journalists, added: “The installation is so reminiscent of the photographs that we saw of the bodies being exhumed from the massacre site. And it really does tear at the heart when you see these images made from newspaper print – the very medium that the journalists worked on.”

The Philippines remains is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, and the most dangerous in Asia Pacific. Three of 11 journalists killed in the region last year were from the Southeast Asian archipelago.

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