Radio commentator shot, killed in Mindanao

New York, January 23, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists urges a prompt and thorough investigation into the murder of Philippine radio commentator Badrodin Abbas, who was shot by two assailants late Wednesday in Cotabato City on the southern island of Mindanao. 

Abbas, a frequent commentator at DXCM-Radyo Ukay, was shot in the head by two motorcycle-riding assailants while he was driving a minivan, according to news reports. Abbas died immediately from the head wound, Cotabato City Police Chief Willie Dangane told reporters. Abbas leased airtime under a practice known as “block-timing” in which announcers also solicit their own sponsors.

Dangane said the killing was captured on a closed-circuit video camera in the area, according to news reports. He initially told reporters he planned to launch an investigation into whether Abbas’ murder was related to his work as a journalist, but in subsequent reports said the murder was more likely a result of mistaken identity. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the murder was related to his work.

Ricardo Blancaflor, the undersecretary of justice who oversees a government task force dedicated to investigating journalist murders, announced that he had sent a forensic team to investigate.

Abbas had established a reputation for hard-hitting commentary, including recent pieces on a proposed peace deal that came undone by a court ruling last October between the government and a Muslim rebel group known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, according to press reports. The two sides have engaged in an on-and-off armed conflict for nearly four decades.

“We are concerned that Badrodin Abbas’ murder may be a continuation of the cycle of violence against journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The culture of impunity that has left Philippine journalists vulnerable to attack will not be broken until authorities bring those responsible for past killings to justice. We urge the government to pursue its investigation in a prompt and thorough manner.”

CPJ research shows that two Philippine journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2008, while three others were slain in unclear circumstances. In cooperation with local partners, CPJ launched a global campaign to combat impunity for journalist murders focusing on the Philippines and Russia.