Acquittal in Filipino Journalist’s Murder Case ‘Blow for Press Freedom’, says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed disappointment at the acquittal of the man accused of killing radio journalist Elpidio “Ely” Binoya at a regional trial court in Mindanao, the Philippines.

“Simply put, the Arroyo government is not doing enough to bring journalists’ killers to justice, and this latest decision in the courts is another blow for press freedom in the Philippines,” said Christopher Warren, IFJ president.

Judge Oscar Noel, of Regional Trial Court Branch 35, who oversaw the case, said the prosecution failed to present strong evidence against the accused, Ephraim “Toto” Englis and acquitted him on March 6, 2006.

Englis, a former policeman of General Santos City, is the chief of Barangay Datal Tampal in Malungan town in Saranggani.

On June 17, 2004, Binoya, satellite station manager of DZRH Radyo Natin (Our Radio) in Malungon, was riding a motorcycle to work when two unidentified men shot him in Upper Labay, General Santos City.

Before his death, Binoya criticised local politicians, including Englis in his radio show.

Binoya’s family and colleagues claim that some influential people are protecting Englis.

“We call on the government to prove its resolve to defend press freedom by seriously going after the killers of journalists and pursuing the cases filed against suspects who were arrested,” said Jose Torres Jr., chairman of the Commission for the Protection of Journalists of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, an affiliate of the IFJ.

The Philippines is the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after Iraq. Since 1986, 76 journalists have been killed in the Philippines, of these 76 cases, only one has been successfully prosecuted.

Already this year, two journalists have been shot dead. On January 20, 2006, unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles shot radio-journalist, Rolly Canete, three times in the back whilst walking home at Purak Bakaw in Barangay Kawit.

The following day, the former radio newsman, Graciano Aquino, was shot in the back of the neck at a cockfight arena in Sitio Panibatuan in Barangay Poblacion.

“It is a culture of violence, encouraged by government inaction that is the main reason for the high death toll of journalists in the Philippines,” said Warren.

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 100 countries