Radio correspondent killed

New York, August 12, 2004—Radio journalist Fernando Consignado was found dead in his home this morning in the town of Nagcarlan, 47 miles (75 kilometers) south of Manila, according to local news reports. Consignado, a correspondent for the Manila-based Radio Veritas, died of a single gunshot wound to the head, according to police investigators. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is investigating whether his murder was tied to his work as a journalist.

Consignado, 50, was a vegetable farmer and a reporter on community affairs for the Roman Catholic radio station. Colleagues at Radio Veritas said Consignado’s slaying might have been related to his reporting a few years ago on illegal gambling and anomalies in local road construction projects, according to a local news report. Police also cited Consignado’s recent involvement in a land dispute as a possible motive behind his death, and said that he was overheard arguing with an unnamed relative shortly before he was found dead by a neighbor, according to local news reports. No suspects have been identified.

CPJ is investigating of slayings of five other Filipino journalists killed since January. Only Iraq has seen more journalists killed so far this year. According to CPJ research, 44 journalists have died for their work in the Philippines since 1986.

Local media workers condemned the growing number of fatalities among their colleagues, and formed their own task force to investigate the recent murders of two of their colleagues—radio broadcaster Eliseo Binoya, killed on June 17, and reporter Jonathan Abayon, who died from a gunshot wound earlier this week on August 9.

In response to the mounting death toll of journalists in the Philippines, national police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. issued a directive last week loosening restrictions on gun licenses to allow journalists under threat to carry firearms. Local press groups condemned the proposal, saying that it deflected responsibility for the protection of the press.

“The culture of impunity in the Philippines must be stopped,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on authorities to carry out a swift and thorough investigation of this crime, and of the other deadly attacks on journalists, and to prosecute those responsible for all of these murders. Police should not abdicate their responsibility to uphold the law and safeguard press freedom.”