Radio anchor murdered in Philippines

Bangkok, September 19, 2013–A radio anchor was shot dead in the central region of Cebu City on Saturday, the latest death in a steady stream of killings of journalists in the Philippines. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder of Jesus “Jessie” Tabanao and bring his killer to justice.

An unidentified man on a motorcycle shot Tabanao in the back outside of his parked car at around 11:45 p.m. in Kamputhaw village in Cebu City, according to news reports. A security guard who witnessed the attack told reporters that the gunman was wearing a full-faced helmet and fled the crime scene after the shooting, the reports said. Police recovered eight empty shells from a handgun at the crime scene, according to the reports.

Tabanao was headed to pick up his wife, Katrina, from an event related to the city’s annual Press Freedom Week celebration.

A radio anchor at dyRC Radyo Calungsod, Tabanao frequently reported on the illegal drug trade on the station’s “Police Line Up” and “Drug Watch” programs. He also served as a spokesman for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and often met with informants on drug-related cases, according to news reports.

Police Superintendant Reycel Carmelo Dayon, head of the special investigation task group probing the murder, told local media that Tabanao’s death was probably drug-related. He said police were investigating text messages that Tabanao received on three of his cell phones to identify suspects or other clues in the case.

“Radio journalists are frequently targeted for their hard-hitting broadcasts about illegal activities in the Philippines,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on the relevant authorities to leave no stone unturned in establishing the motive behind Jesus Tabanao’s killing and to bring the assailant to justice.”

At least seven journalists have been killed in the Philippines this year. Investigating officials have not determined whether they were killed because of their work as journalists or for other reasons in all seven of the deaths. The Philippines ranks third on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.