BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Filipino government must act to bring the killers of three local journalists to justice and stop further violence, Human Rights Watch said, adding their deaths underscore the precarious state of media freedom in the country.
Two journalists working for the now-defunct weekly tabloid Aksyon Ngayon in Quezon City, Metro Manila, were killed by gunmen on a motorcycle on the night of July 30. Richard Kho, 47 and Bonifacio Loreto Jr., 59, were talking outside Loreto’s home when the gunmen fired at them at close range.
Two days later, unidentified gunmen shot dead a freelance photojournalist, Mario Sy, 53, in the southern city of General Santos in front of his wife and daughter.
“While the killers and motives are unknown, these and past unresolved attacks on journalists have a chilling effect on media freedom in the country,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement.
In the same week, broadcast journalist Ces Drilon received text messages threatening to “erase” her, HRW added, urging the government of Benigno Aquino to take action.
“Unless the government brings people who attack journalists to justice, these killings are not going to stop,” Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in the statement. “President Aquino needs to realise that this problem won’t go away on its own.”
LONG HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Journalists in the Philippines have long been targeted for their work. The worst incident was in November 2009 when 58 people, including more than 30 reporters, who had accompanied a family as one of its members filed election papers for the post of provincial governor were massacred in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) called the attack “one of the worst acts of political violence in modern Philippine history, and the largest number of journalists slain on a single day ever, anywhere in the world.”
If last week’s deaths are related to the reporters’ profession, they would bring the number of Filipino journalists killed in connection with their work this year to six, putting the Philippines “among the world’s deadliest countries for media personnel, alongside Syria and Pakistan,” said Reporters Without Borders.
The Committee to Project Journalists says 73 journalists have been killed since 1992 but local groups say the number is higher.