Larry Que, a columnist and publisher of the Catanduanes News Now newspaper, was shot by gunmen on a motorcycle as he was about to enter his office in Virac on 19 December and died of his injuries in hospital yesterday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.
Although Que was the first journalist to be murdered in the Philippines since Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as president on 30 June, it continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for media personnel, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said yesterday.
In a column shortly before his death, Que criticized the negligence of the police in allowing a vast illegal crystal meth laboratory to operate on the island of Catanduanes until they finally raided it three weeks ago, NUJP secretary general Dabet Panelo said.
Condemning the lack of reaction from the national police to Que’s death, Panelo called on the authorities “to immediately solve his killing, the first of a media person under the Duterte administration.”
Although Que is the first fatality, two radio journalists have been injured in separate attacks since Duterte’s inauguration.
“The situation of journalists in the Philippines is extremely worrying and we urge the Duterte administration to open an immediate investigation into Larry Que’s murder so that it does not go unpunished,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said.
“The international community must also insist that the Philippine government respects human rights and media freedom. This includes guaranteeing the safety of journalists.”
Duterte triggered an international outcry shortly before taking office when he said that journalists who took bribes or engaged in other forms of corruption were legitimate murder targets. “Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch,” he said.
Since taking office, Duterte has waged a brutal war against drug trafficking in which more than 5,300 people are estimated to have died. In October, he nonetheless created a high-level task force that is supposed to ensure a “safe environment for media workers” and investigate unsolved attacks on journalists.