In Philippines, gunmen shoot radio journalist

Bangkok, November 28, 2011–A Philippine radio journalist who reported critically on local corruption and drug trafficking was shot and seriously wounded on November 24, a day after the International Day to End Impunity was commemorated.

Two gunmen on motorcycles shot Michael James Licuanan, reporter for Bombo Radyo Cagayan de Oro City, while he was riding his motorcycle home from his evening radio program in Cagayan de Oro City, on the southern island of Mindanao, news reports said. The journalist fell off his motorcycle as a bullet entered his left buttock and exited through his abdomen. He was able to take cover in a fire station, and had emergency surgery at an undisclosed hospital where he is now stable, news reports said.

“The brazen attempt on Michael James Licuanan’s life speaks to President Benigno Aquino’s still-unfulfilled promise to address the culture of impunity he promised to tackle,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Until Aquino’s government sends a stronger signal to the killers of journalists, more attacks like this one will occur.”

Police officials found two empty .45 caliber pistol shells near the scene of the crime but did not identify any suspects. Closed-circuit footage from Licuanan’s radio station showed that the two assailants, both wearing black jackets and motorcycle helmets that obscured their faces, were in the station’s vicinity for hours before the attack, news reports said.

Licuanan’s colleagues said his shooting was likely related to his commentaries on local corruption and drug trafficking. Celso Maldecir, the radio station’s manager, told local reporters that Licuanan had recently reported on the arrest of a local methamphetamine trafficking suspect by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officers. Licuanan had also reported critically on controversial local infrastructure issues, including road flyover projects, news reports said.

In 2011, at least two Philippine journalists were shot and killed in relation to their work, CPJ research showed. CPJ is also investigating three other journalists who were murdered this year under unclear circumstances.