Philippines: Commentator wounded, photographer killed in separate incidents

New York, May 17, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the May 6 shooting of journalist Paul Manaog, a reporter and commentator with local radio station DWLL. Manaog was still in critical condition at a local hospital today, according to the Philippines Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a press freedom advocacy group.

Manaog was shot three times by unidentified men while walking with his wife in the central city of Naga, according to information gathered by CMFR.

Witnesses said the assailants fled in a jeep, while local police recovered a gun and spent cartridges at the crime scene, the Philippine media reported. The local governor, Ray Villafuerte, told CMFR that local police had gathered significant leads that would help in investigating the crime.

CMFR reported that Manaog was likely targeted due to his work as a journalist because of his critical commentaries about local political figures on his radio DWLL broadcasts. The local station is owned by the family of a prominent local politician, Luis Villafuerte. In the Philippines, local radio stations often serve their owners’ interests by criticizing their political rivals on air.

“The Philippines is Asia’s most dangerous country to be a journalist,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Only when murders are fully and independently investigated and the killers quickly brought to justice will the Philippines have a genuinely free press.”

CPJ will continue to investigate the Manaog’s case to determine if he was targeted in connection with his critical reporting. Authorities have secured only one conviction from the 23 murders of Philippine journalists who were killed related to their work in the country since 2000.

In a separate incident, Albert Orsolino, a photographer with the local Saksi Ngayon tabloid, was shot and killed on April 16 by unidentified assailants while driving his car in a northern area of Manila, according to information compiled by CMFR. CPJ is investigating whether Orsolino was killed in relation to his work as a journalist.