Radio broadcaster shot; suspects arrested in columnist’s murder

New York, April 12, 2005 ­ Police are searching for two suspects responsible for the attempted murder of radio broadcaster Alberto Martinez, who was shot in the back while on his way home on the southern island of Mindanao.

Police Inspector Alberto Jungaya told local reporters today that unidentified gunmen shot Martinez last Sunday night in the town of Osais. Martinez, who is also a pastor with the Church of God World Mission, was rushed to the hospital and is in stable condition, according to international wire reports.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether the shooting was related to Martinez’s daily radio show on the local community station Radyo Natin. Police said that Martinez had recently received death threats, and that the shooting could have occurred in retaliation for his anti-corruption themed broadcasts. Martinez, 46, is a “block-timer”; he leases a specific amount of air time from the local radio station and is responsible for finding advertisers and sponsors. The practice of leasing air time is controversial because it places economic burdens on broadcasters themselves, instead of on the station owners.

Only a month previous, another journalist was shot and killed on Mindanao. Crusading anti-graft columnist Marlene Garcia-Esperat died on March 24 when a gunman entered her home and shot her in the head in front of her family. Police announced yesterday that they have arrested four suspects in Esperat’s murder, all of whom allegedly committed the crime for an unknown third party.

The Philippines is in the middle of a bloody crime war against the press. Radio broadcasters in particular are vulnerable to attack; last year, six of the eight journalists killed in retaliation for their work were radio broadcasters, according to CPJ research.