Rights Groups Condemn Radio Journalist’s Killing in Philippines

Karl Romano
180502-PH-protest-1000.jpg Thousands of university students join a walkout protest to defend press freedom, in Baguio city, Philippines, Feb. 23, 2018.
Karl Romano/BenarNews

A radio journalist has died after being shot by two men on a motorcycle, becoming the ninth journalist to be slain in the Philippines since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016, rights monitors said Wednesday.

Edmund Sestoso, 50, the anchor of a program on dyGB FM Power 91 radio that tackled corruption and other issues, died from his injuries on Tuesday, a day after he was shot multiple times in the central city of Dumaguete.

“We demand justice for Edmund and for all silent voices,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement, noting that the “brazenness of the attack” came days before the international community was to mark World Press Freedom Day on Thursday.

The killing “underscores how deeply the culture of impunity has rooted itself in our country,” the NUJP said. The attack, according to the union, could embolden those who wish to silence the Filipino press, considered one of the freest in Asia.

Sestoso was the ninth journalist slain in the country since Duterte took office and the 182nd since 1986, when dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled, NUJP said.

Sestoso, the former Dumaguete chairman of the NUJP, lived a simple life, and at one time used a shoe lace as a belt around his waist to save money for his children, reports said.

He was felled by up to five bullets, which hit him in the chest, stomach and leg. The gunmen also pierced the tires of a rickshaw whose driver had intended to rush the wounded man to hospital, the NUJP said.

The police said a motive for the attack had not yet been determined, but they were looking at Sestoso’s radio work for clues. Sestoso’s program, called Tug-anan, is known to be hard hitting and has often tackled sensitive issues, including corruption.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the attack demonstrated the “persistence of a culture of impunity” in the Philippines, where media workers were often targeted by powerful interests.

“The Duterte administration may not like a free press very much but it has the duty and responsibility to arrest and prosecute the killers of Sestoso and the many others who were murdered over the years,” the watchdog’s Asia researcher, Carlos Conde, said.

Sestoso’s killing happened on the same day that 10 journalists were killed in a bomb attack in Afghanistan, making the collective toll “particularly tragic,” Conde said.

The Filipino journalist’s death came amid ongoing and persistent attacks on the country’s independent press by the government of Duterte, who has bristled at criticism over his administration’s deadly war on drugs.

Earlier this year, his government worked to shut down online publication Rappler, and it also publicly lambasted a broadsheet and a television network by claiming that they were biased against his young administration.

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