Newspaper columnist murdered in the Philippines

Bangkok, March 13, 2017–Philippine police and prosecutors should credibly investigate today’s murder of newspaper columnist Joaquin Briones and should swiftly bring all those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Assailants on motorcycles shot Briones, a columnist who wrote about local news for the tabloid newspaper Remate, four times in the back at around 8:45 a.m. in Milagros, a town in the island province of Masbate, according to news reports. He died on the spot, the Philippine News Agency reported. Police Chief Inspector Malu Calubaquib said the killers fled the scene of the crime, near the town’s Bombon Bridge in the Bacolod district, the reports said.

Briones previously hosted a hard-hitting radio program, “Dos por Dos,” which also discussed issues of local concern, and published the now-defunct Masbate Tribune newspaper, according to media reports. The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, established last year by President Rodrigo Duterte to protect journalists and to bring those who kill them to justice, said it had launched an investigation into Briones’ murder, according to reports. Police Inspector Anselmo Prima from Milagros said police suspected either local politics or personal grudges as possible motives for the crime, reports said.

“We strongly condemn the brazen murder of Joaquin Briones and call on authorities to identify and bring all those responsible to swift justice,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “President Rodrigo Duterte must send a clear signal that his administration will not condone the murder of journalists.”

Briones was at least the second journalist to be killed in the Philippines since Duterte assumed elected office in June 2016, according to CPJ research. In December 2016, assailants riding motorcycles fatally shot newspaper publisher Larry Que in Virac, Catanduanes Province, CPJ reported at the time. CPJ is investigating both murders to determine whether they were related to the journalists’ work.

The Philippines ranked fourth on CPJ’s 2016 Impunity Index, which tracks where journalists are killed 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.