The wave of killings that last year made the Philippines the most dangerous media hot-spot after Iraq is continuing into 2005 says the International Federation of Journalists with the shooting of two journalists in recent days that brings the death toll since January last year to at least 15.
Romeo Sanchez, a broadcaster at DZNL radio in San Fernando City, La Union, and a regional coordinator for the Bayan Muna party was shot dead by a lone gunman on 9 March in Baguio. Arnulfo Villanueva, a columnist for the Asian Star Express Balita newspaper was shot in a separate incident on 28 February. His body was found on a roadside in Naic, Cavite Province. Police suspect he was killed over his criticism of local officials over illegal gambling in Cavite.
“The ordeal of Filipino journalists will only end when these ruthless assassins are brought to justice,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It’s time for the authorities to do more to find the killers.
The IFJ says the government of President Glorio Arroyo must be seen to be pursuing the killers. “There needs to be credible and extensive investigation of these deaths accompanied by a commitment to protect other journalists from violence,” said White.
The IFJ took some comfort from reports of the arrest of two alleged members of a rebel group in connection with an attack on an outside broadcast van owned by the television network ABS-CBN. The suspects, believed to be members of the Rebolusyonaryong Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), were identified by three witnesses as part of the gang that set fire to the van valued at over US$625,000 on 11 January.
“This attack was a desperate attempt by a group of thugs to intimidate and undermine the work of one of the Philippines’ most influential media outlets,” said White.
“It is an encouraging sign when those threatening press freedom and pursing violence are picked up,” said White. “But we need more action and we need it now”.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries