Newspaper publisher murdered in the Philippines

Bangkok, August 20, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in the Philippines to establish the motive behind the murder of newspaper publisher Gregorio Ybanez and swiftly bring the perpetrator to justice.

Ybanez was shot three times in the chest and once in the arm at around 10 p.m. on August 18 in front of his house in southern Davao Del Norte province’s Tagum City, according to news reports. Reports varied on whether the unidentified assailant escaped on a motorcycle or by car. Ybanez died from his wounds the following morning, according to reports.

Ybanez was the publisher of the weekly Kabuhayan News Services and president of the Davao Del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club, according to reports. He also served as a board director at the Davao Del Norte Electric Cooperative power distributor, reports said. Investigating officers said they were pursuing possible motives related to both his roles.

“Authorities in the Philippines should leave no stone unturned in apprehending the assailant and determining the motive behind newspaper publisher Gregorio Ybanez’s murder,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “With less than a year left in President Benigno Aquino’s term, time is running out for his administration to reverse the trend of impunity in media killings.”

Ciriaco Cornejos, vice president of the Davao Del Norte media club, was quoted in news reports as saying that he believed Ybanez’s murder was more likely linked to his position at the cooperative than his news publishing. Cornejos said that Ybanez’s publication was “not hard-hitting,” but that he had received death threats at the height of a management conflict he was involved with at the cooperative in 2012.

Reports noted that radio broadcaster and elected councilman Rogelio Butalid was also killed in Tagum City in 2013. Ybanez was quoted in a local report at the time saying Butalid’s murder was likely related to a management conflict over control of the power company. He said six other journalists who were part of the Davao Del Norte media club had received death threats, including by text message, for their critical reporting on the situation, according to the report.

The Philippines ranks third on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free. More journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work in the Philippines than anywhere apart from Iraq and Syria, since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992.

  • For more on impunity in the killing of journalists, see CPJ’s special report, “The Road to Justice.”