Three journalists murdered in Philippines in past week
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the murders of three journalists in the past week in the Philippines and urges the authorities to do everything necessary to identify and punish those responsible. The sharp increase in media freedom violations in this Southeast Asian island nation is very worrying.
The latest victim was Leo Diaz, a reporter for the Balita News tabloid, who was gunned down by men on a motorcycle on the southern island of Mindanao on 7 August. A former police officer who was also a columnist for a community newspaper, he often covered stories linked to political corruption, illegal gambling and drugs.
Radio DXPB host Rudy Alicaway was killed in similar circumstances in the same region the day before. The radio station’s director said he did not normally cover anything controversial.
Michael Marasigan, a finance ministry media consultant who used to be the managing editor of the business newspaper BusinessWorld, was killed along with his brother when gunmen on a motorcycle opened fired on their car in a Manila suburb on 3 August.
Marasigan was well known for his quality reporting on business cartels in the 1980s. Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to take charge of investigating the double murder.
“These murders are cruel reminders that the Philippines has for years been the world’s second most dangerous country for journalists,” RSF said. “The martial law declared on Mindanao Island and the war on drugs that President Rodrigo Duterte has launched throughout the country must not be pursued at the expense of journalists’ safety.
“We welcome the decision to put an elite police force in charge of investigating the murder of Michael Marasigan and his brother and we urge the authorities to take similar measures in the cases of Leo Diaz and Rudy Alicaway and to do everything possible to ensure that these murders do not go unpunished.”
The Philippines has been under a state of emergency ever since a bomb attack on a market in the city of Davao killed 14 people in September 2016.
President Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao on 23 May of this year, after violent clashes between government forces and rebels believed to support Al Qaeda and Islamic State. The military subsequently announced that they intended to censor the media and social networks in order to protect “national security.”
Even before taking office in June 2016, Duterte alarmed human rights defenders by public insulting the media. He repeated his insults in March, describing the country’s two leading media outlets as “sons of whores” and threatening retaliation for their articles criticizing his war on drugs.
In December 2016, Larry Que became the first journalist to be murdered since Duterte became president. Julito Orillaneda, a radio commentator known for criticizing the government, was badly injured when he was shot several times by a gunman on the back of a motorcycle last month.
The Philippines is the world’s second most dangerous country for media personnel (just behind Iraq), with a total of 146 journalists killed from 1990 to 2015, according to a survey by the International Federation of Journalists. It is ranked 127th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.