Philippines: Radio journalist killed after receiving threat

New York, May 22, 2006— The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Philippines government to investigate the shooting death Monday of provincial radio journalist and commentator Fernando Batul. Two gunmen on motorcycles shot Batul six times as he drove to work at radio station DZRH in Puerto Princessa on Palawan Island, media reported.

The killing came one week after two hand grenades and a letter were left at Batul’s home. The letter threatened harm to his family if Batul continued with critical broadcasts. Deputy chief of national police, Avelino Razon, said it was not clear whether Batul was killed for his radio work. Batul was a former vice mayor of Puerto Princessa and had been highly critical in broadcasts of the current mayor. Mayor Edward Hagedorn told journalists he was not involved in the killing and offered a 2 million peso ($38,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers.

Several journalists have been shot and wounded in recent weeks even as the government claims success in prosecuting those responsible for attacking journalists. On May 5, Philippine National Police Senior Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said that many murders of journalists had been solved, and he denied the existence of a culture of impunity.

“Unfortunately, we have seen in the weeks since the authorities’ attempt to play down the dangers faced by journalists that reporters and commentators continue to be at high risk,” Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director, said. “The problem has not gone away, as the killing of Fernando Batul shows. We call on the authorities to investigate this and all killings of journalists thoroughly and bring those responsible to justice.”

In an open letter to Philippines President Macapagal Arroyo on May 15, CPJ discredited the claims made by Pagdilao and presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye that many of the cases of journalists killed in the country had been solved. According to CPJ research, there has been just one conviction in the cases of 23 journalists killed for their work since 2000. .Read the letter: