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HRW urges Aquino action on journalist killings

Deaths 'underscore the precarious state of media freedom in the Philippines' reporter, Manila

August 12, 2013

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Benigno Aquino to speak out against the recent killings of three journalists and ensure authorities expedite investigations into their murders.

"While the killers and motives [of the killings] are unknown, these and past unresolved attacks on journalists have a chilling effect on media freedom in the country," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director for HRW.

These latest killings and threats "underscore the precarious state of media freedom in the Philippines and the need for the government to respond."

On July 30, Richard Kho, 47, and Bonifacio Loreto Jr, 59, both columnists for the weekly tabloid Aksyon Ngayon, were gunned down in Quezon City.

On August 1, freelance photojournalist Mario Sy, 53, was shot in the southern city of General Santos.

Also last week, broadcast journalist Ces Drilon received text messages threatening to “erase” her after her network, ABS-CBN, aired her report on the Maguindanao Massacre, in which 58 people, most of them journalists, were executed in 2009.

While Drilon's news show reported on a deadly bombing in Cagayan de Oro City last week she received a text message that read: “You’re next to explode.”

Journalism has long been a high-risk profession in the Philippines.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, some 73 journalists have been murdered in the Philippines since 1992; local media groups put the number considerably higher.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that the three recent killings brought the number of journalists killed in the country under the Aquino administration to 18.

Journalists, particularly outside the major cities, regularly report threats and harassment. The union said that most of the journalists killed had received death threats.

“The Philippines has a reputation for having one of the freest media freedom environments in Asia, but that reputation disappears bit-by-bit with every killing of a journalist,” Kine said.

“President Aquino needs to realize that this problem won’t go away on its own,” Kine added.

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