New York, January 11, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists applauds the arraignment yesterday of two suspects in the 2001 killing of Philippine radio reporter Rolando Ureta. In a December 21 alert, CPJ called on the government to “vigorously prosecute” the case of the two suspects, Amador Raz and Jessie Ticar, who were arrested separately on November 26 and December 11, respectively.
The two had been charged in September 2004 but the charges were dropped a few months later. Their re-arrest came after the Philippine National Police filed an appeal to have the complaint reinstated. The men are being tried in Kalibo Regional Trial Court in Aklan, a province approximately 225 miles (345 kilometers) south of Manila. Both have pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, according to as the media rights group Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
“These arraignments are a step forward in bringing to justice whoever killed Rolando Ureta,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Normally, the level of impunity in journalists’ murders is extremely high in the Philippines. We would like to see this kind of momentum continue in this case, as well as see it set the standard for how to proceed in others.”
Ureta is one of 32 journalists who have been killed for their work since 1992 in the Philippines; there have only been two convictions in any of these cases, according to CPJ research.
CPJ’s report on Ureta's death noted that he was riding his motorcycle when he was shot by two men, also on a motorcycle, in Aklan on the southernmost major island, Mindanao, on January 3, 2001. Ureta’s commentaries had included pieces about local government corruption and police involvement in the drug trade.
CPJ’s research shows that more than 85 percent of the killings of journalists go unprosecuted around the world, and that the Philippines is one of the worst offenders. With support from the Knight Foundation, CPJ has launched a global campaign for 2008 to combat impunity, with an initial focus on the Philippines and Russia.