Newspaper publisher shot and killed in Philippines

Bangkok, December 21, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on authorities in the Philippines to establish the motive behind the murder of newspaper publisher Larry Que and bring the perpetrators swiftly to justice.

Que was shot in the head at close range at around 10:00 a.m. on December 19 while entering an office building in Catanduanes province’s town of Virac, according to news reports. A gunman wearing a helmet, bonnet, and raincoat escaped on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice, reports said. Que died early yesterday morning while receiving treatment for his injury at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center.

Que was publisher and columnist at the local Catanduanes News Now, a weekly community newspaper established this year, according to local reports. He was also the owner of a local insurance company and ran for mayor of Virac in an election he lost in May, reports said. Teresa Reyes, an off-duty police officer who witnessed the crime, said Que was returning from the local Land Transportation Office when he was shot in front of his company’s office building, reports said.

“Philippine authorities should quickly apprehend the assailants and determine the motive behind publisher Larry Que’s murder,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “President Rodrigo Duterte has sent mixed messages on his government’s commitment to protecting journalists and upholding press freedom. He should set the record straight by quickly solving Que’s killing through legal means.”

In October, Duterte created by executive order a new multi-agency government task force to probe unresolved media murder cases and prevent violence against journalists, according to press reports.

Que was shot soon after his newspaper published a column he wrote alleging “official negligence” over an illegal methamphetamine laboratory recently raided by police in the island province, news reports said. The article also speculated that the illegal plant, reportedly the largest ever discovered in the Philippines, may have been established by Chinese nationals working with ethnic Chinese residents of the province, reports said.

Jinky Tabor, a broadcast journalist who also reports for the local Manila Bulletin newspaper, said that she received anonymous death threats after reporting on the police raid of the alleged drug-making facility, according to news reports. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a local press group, said in a statement that Que’s murder had sowed fear among local journalists that they could be targeted next for reporting on the laboratory.

The Philippines ranks fourth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, a global measure of 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.