Newspaper editor gunned down in the Philippines

New York, October 7, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the fatal shooting of newspaper editor Johnson Pascual and calls on Philippine authorities to investigate the case and prosecute the perpetrators.

Pascual, editor-in-chief of a local paper Prime News, was shot by two men on a motorcycle at 7:30 a.m. on Friday in Isabela province on the northeast coast of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, local and international news reports said. After he was shot, the journalist swerved and drove his Isuzu van into a ravine, where he died. Isabela Chief Superintendent of Police Rodrigo de Gracia told the Philippines Inquirer, “The shooting of the victim caused his vehicle to plunge into the ravine that caused his instantaneous death.” He also said that the journalist had been hit twice, in the head and body.

“We condemn the murder of Johnson Pascual and are concerned that he will become just another poorly investigated, unprosecuted crime, the sort that is commonplace in the Philippines,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Over the decades, the killing of journalists and other citizens has not been successfully addressed by the Philippines government, and that reality is continuing under the presidency of Benigno Aquino.”

Pascual was also the bank manager of FICO Bank in Maddela town in neighboring Quirino province, news reports said. Nestor Burgos, head of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said it was still too early to say if Pascual’s murder was related to his job as a journalist.

CPJ data for 2011 show that four journalists have died through violent attacks so far, but only the deaths of Romeo Olea and Gerardo Ortega have been determined to be related to their work as journalists. The Philippines ranks as the world’s third worst for the prosecution of journalists’ killers, CPJ’s Impunity Index shows.