Philippines fast becoming a dangerous place for journalists

In an incident that some are calling “work-related,” a 32-year-old Filipino journalist named Martin Roxas was gunned down on August 7 on his way home and just moments after he had finished his show on dyKR-Radio Mindanao Network (RMN), which is a province of the Philippines located in the Western Visayas region.

According to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Roxas had been investigating irregularity in local government and was the fourth journalist killed this year in the Philippines.

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending freedom of expression and press freedom yesterday condemned the murder of the radio broadcaster.

“The perpetrators of such crimes are undermining the fundamental human right of freedom of expression, which is a cornerstone of democracy,” said UNESCO official Koïchiro Matsuura. “I trust the Philippines authorities will spare no effort in tracking the murderers of Roxas and bringing them to trial.”

Roxas was a broadcaster for RMN and also worked as program director for the radio station as well.

According to published reports, Roxas had just finished his show, called Targetanay sa Ugto (“Targeting at Noon”), and was on his way home when he was shot by a gunman on a motorcycle.

Jeony Bigay, RMN’s area manager for Western Visayas, said Roxas was attacked at Bayot Drive in Roxas City, which is approximately two kilometers away the station. According to Bigay, three unidentified men in the same area had harassed Roxas while he was on his way home. The station reported the harassment to the local police.

Published reports also confirmed that during his August 7 program, Roxas interviewed Capiz 1st District Rep. Antonio “Tony” del Rosario about the anomaly surrounding the financial aid given to indigent hospital patients during del Rosario’s term as mayor of Roxas City Roxas found fictitious names in the list of recipients of city financial aid.

Roxas, according to Bigay, had been discussing the alleged anomalous transaction in his program for two weeks. Bigay reportedly met with Roxas’s family to discuss their next move. “We will decide which government agency—the NBI (National Burerau of Investigation) or the police—we’ll ask for help,” he was quoted as saying.

According to published reports, 33 journalists/media practitioners have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 2001. A few days earlier, an RMN anchor, Dennis Cuesta, was attacked on August 4, 2008 in General Santos City South Cotabato. Cuesta died four days later, and a junior police officer has been charged for his murder.

Ironically, the current vice president of the Philippines, Noli De Castro, is a former news broadcaster himself and is his opponent in the last election for the vice presidency, Loren Legarda.