Two Journalists Killed in a Week, Violence Against Media Thrives Under Atmosphere of Impunity

In less than a week, two journalists of the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) were shot in separate incidents by motorcycle-riding gunmen in broad daylight. Both of them died.

Contributed to
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

In less than a week, two journalists of the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) were shot in separate incidents by motorcycle-riding gunmen in broad daylight, leaving one dead and the other in coma.

Dennis Cuesta, program director and anchorman of the Straight to the Point program of radio station DXMD-RMN in General Santos City died Aug. 9 after a few days in comatose. He was shot five times, including a gunshot wound to the head, near a commercial complex last Aug. 4.

On Aug. 7, another RMN broadcaster, Martin Roxas of the DyVR station in Roxas City, Capiz died an hour after he suffered a gunshot to his spine. He had just come from his station when two assassins chased and felled him with bullets.

Roxas was also program director of the Capiz radio station and hosted a noontime commentary program. He was also the first officer of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to have been murdered. He was auditor of the media organization’s Capiz chapter.

The killing of Cuesta and Roxas brought to five the number of journalists slain this year. Under the Arroyo administration, 60 journalists have been killed, according to records of the NUJP.

Though the motives are still unclear, police investigators are looking into the angle that the assaults may be work-related. Both journalists tackle various issues, such as corruption, in their programs.

’Culture of impunity’

NUJP Secretary General Rowena Carranza-Paraan said, “The killing of Martin Roxas just three days after the wounding of Dennis Cuesta in General Santos City highlights the continued threats against journalists and the problem of impunity that has allowed the killers of journalists to go scot-free.”

According to reports, police in Capiz have arrested and detained two suspects in the killing of Roxas and a task force is now in place to investigate the killing.

In General Santos, police have not yet identified suspects in the murder of Cuesta. Colleagues of Cuesta reported however that the radioman has been receiving unconfirmed threats to his life before the attack.

So far, none have been identified as the masterminds behind the two killings.

International groups, such as the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed shock at the twin assaults on the radio journalists.

In a statement, the IFJ said that the recent attacks have also seen the Philippines’ return to the top of the most dangerous countries in the Asia-Pacific region for journalists so far in 2008.

“The Philippine authorities must fulfill their responsibility to protect each and every person from such violence. The fact that journalists continue to be targeted is a clear indication that the authorities’ actions or lack of actions are not delivering the message of zero tolerance,” the IFJ statement read.

The NUJP also stated that the shootings mock government’s claims that it has brought down the incidence of extrajudicial killings, particularly the murder of journalists.

”The brazen daytime attacks merely show that the culture of impunity the government has helped nurture by its inaction, apathy and even its outright attempts to stifle press freedom, continues to thrive,” NUJP said.

France-based press freedom organization, Reporters Without Borders, in a press statement, also “urges the Philippine government to send a strong signal of its determination to protect the media by assigning additional resources to the Task Force in charge of investigating attacks on journalists.”

According to NUJP, their members in General Santos and Davao City joined the protest action held last Aug. 8 in General Santos while Iloilo journalists have also organized a candle-lighting activity and staged a caravan to where their slain colleague was shot. Similar actions are being planned in other areas, including Manila. Contributed to (

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