Radio commentator shot dead

New York, December 3, 2008–The Philippine government should work with police to investigate the rise in fatal attacks on journalists following Tuesday’s shooting death of Radyo Natin commentator Leo Mila on central Samar Island, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

No witnesses came forward after the attack, which occurred outside the national radio network’s local station office in the town of San Roque, Northern Samar province, according to local press freedom groups and international news reports. Radio employees alerted police after hearing gunfire and finding Mila’s abandoned motorcycle still running outside, according to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Police discovered the journalist’s body, which had sustained multiple gunshot wounds, at the scene, the center said in a statement. 

Mila had reported receiving death threats to local police, and colleagues believe he was targeted for his work, according to the center. Local news reports said his hard-hitting shows tackled sensitive political issues. He had recently reported on irregular funding issues affecting a local high school, according to The Associated Press.

“It is time for the central government, as well as local authorities, to promptly address the climate of impunity that is facilitating rising violence against Philippine journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Mila’s murder is a reminder that police throughout the Philippines must respond immediately with investigations and protection when journalists are threatened for their work.”

At least five other journalists have been ambushed and slain by gunmen–who attack in public areas and escape by motorcycle–in the Philippines this year, according to CPJ research. Three of those were also radio commentators.

CPJ is investigating the November 17 murder of another Radyo Natin journalist, Arecio Padrigo, for links to his work. Padrigo was gunned down on southern Mindanao Island in an incident that appeared to be a targeted attack. Outspoken radio commentators Dennis Cuesta and Martin Roxas both received death threats before being shot and killed for reports on politic issues in their local areas, CPJ has confirmed. The unrelated attacks occurred within a few days of each other in August. Two print journalists, publisher Benefredo Acabal and columnist Bert Sison, were also shot dead this year. The motive for these two attacks has not been confirmed.

CPJ’s global campaign to combat impunity for journalist murders focuses initially on Russia and the Philippines.