Filipino journalist assassinated ahead of Press Freedom Day

Presidential Task Force on Media Security vows 'to leave no stone unturned' in efforts to catch Edmund Sestoso's killer
Filipino journalist assassinated ahead of Press Freedom Day

Radio broadcaster Edmund Sestoso, former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines' chapter in Dumaguete City, was shot multiple times on April 30 and succumbed to his wounds on May 1. (Photo courtesy of Edmund Sestoso's family)

A Filipino radio broadcaster died on May 1, a day after he was ambushed and shot by unidentified gunmen in the central Philippine province of Negros Oriental.

Edmund Sestoso, 51, former chairman of the National Union of Journalists chapter in Dumaguete City, was shot after his news and public affairs radio program on the DYGB-FM station on April 30.

Reports said the killer shot the broadcaster several times, including once in the head, before fleeing on a motorcycle with an accomplice.

Police have yet to determine a motive for the killing.

Sestoso's death came just before International Press Freedom Day on May 3.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said the killing "demonstrates yet again the persistence of a culture of impunity in the Philippines that has forced journalists to work and live in a climate of fear."

"The administration [of President Rodrigo Duterte] may not like a free press very much but it has the duty and responsibility to arrest and prosecute the killers of Sestoso," the group said in a statement.

"That he died on the eve of World Press Freedom Day serves as a reminder that much needs to be done for press freedom around the world and end the slaughter of journalists," Human Rights Watch said.

In its annual World Press Freedom Index last week, Reporters Without Borders noted that the Philippines, which is touted as having the freest and liveliest press in Asia, sank lower in this year's rankings.

With a score of 42.53, the country slipped to 133rd from 127th out of the 180 countries on the list.

Reporters Without Borders noted that the Philippines has become the deadliest country for journalists in Asia after four of five media workers were killed by gunmen in 2017.

Joel Egco, head of the government's Presidential Task Force on Media Security, said he was "saddened [and] enraged" by Sestoso's killing.

"We will get them. Believe me. We will solve this problem," said Egco.

A special investigation team was already looking into the incident.

"Our orders are to leave no stone unturned," said Egco as he called on Filipino journalists "to be very vigilant as we anticipate a surge in incidents of media violence" during upcoming elections.

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The Philippines holds nationwide elections for village and youth leaders on May 14. 

Juancho Gallarde, president of the Dumaguete Press Club, condemned "in the highest possible terms" Sestoso's killing.

"This is an affront to press freedom. Everybody … should be worried about [this] because of its implications," said Gallarde.

Sestoso was a student activist who led political movements in Dumaguete City during the years of martial law in the 1980s. He later worked with peasant groups before becoming a journalist in the 1990s.

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