Newspaper editor murdered in the Philippines

New York, February 20, 2007—Hernani Pastolero, 64, editor-in-chief of the community newspaper Lightning Courier Weekly, was shot dead in front of his home Monday morning in Sultan Kudarat township, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

Pastolero was shot twice in the head by an unidentified assassin who escaped on foot, according to local media reports. Local Police Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao told local press that police investigators had already compiled a list of suspects, but as of today he had not ordered arrests. He declined to speculate about a possible motive for Pastolero’s killing.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether Pastolero’s killing—the first in the Philippines this year— was related to his work as a journalist.

“We hope authorities at the local and national levels will bring the killers of Hernani Pastolero to justice, and not let the case linger unresolved, as so many others have,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today ordered the Philippine National Police to investigate the case and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunyes condemned the killing.

GMANews.TV said the National Bureau of Investigation was investigating Pastolero’s connection to a land conflict between residential lot owners and a large private landholder.

According to CPJ research, three Filipino journalists were killed in connection with their reporting last year, making the Philippines on par with Afghanistan as the deadliest place in Asia to be a news reporter.

In 2004 Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the creation of a special police task force dedicated to solving the murders of journalists. So far the task force has convicted only one in the 25 cases of journalists killed in retaliation for their work since 2000.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is currently conducting an independent probe into the recent rash of extrajudicial killings, including the unresolved murders of journalists, across the Philippines.