Journalist bludgeoned to death

New York, December 2, 2004—The body of a young reporter was found Saturday in a garbage bin on the outskirts of Tabuk in remote Kalinga Province, the latest slaying in one of the deadliest years on record for Filipino journalists. Police believe that Stephen Omaois, 24, was bludgeoned to death, according to international news reports.

Omaois, a writer for the community newspaper Guru Press, had been reporting on a public works project in the town of Pinukpok, according to the Philippine Inquirer, quoting Guru Press editor Estafania Kollin. The Inquirer reported that staff members at Guru Press had received threats related to the story, and that Omaois may have been targeted because he was “vulnerable.”

The Inquirer reported that Omaois’ body showed evidence of torture. Police have not determined a motive in the killing, but are investigating relatives’ claims that Omaois was abducted on the day before he was killed, according to Agence France-Presse. The Committee to Protect Journalists is seeking to determine whether Omaois’ murder was connected to his reporting.

It was not immediately clear what Omaois had written about the Pinukpok project. Omaois was also a broadcast journalist for government-run radio DZRK.

Kalinga Province is an isolated and mountainous region about 200 miles (330 kilometers) north of Manila. Populated by several indigenous tribal communities, it has been the breeding ground for a low-level Communist insurgency.

Seven journalists have been killed for their work in the Philippines in 2004, according to CPJ research, making this the deadliest year for Filipino journalists in more than a decade. CPJ is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the murders of three other journalists killed this year—including Allan Dizon, who was shot dead in Cebu City on Saturday. Only war-ravaged Iraq has seen more journalists slain in 2004.

“The only way to stop these murders is for the Philippine government to start bringing killers to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We join with local journalists in demanding a full and prompt investigation of this heinous act.”

No one has been convicted in the murders of at least 47 journalists since the Philippines became a democracy in 1986.