Murder of Gensan publisher is world's first media killing in 2012
Overseas media support groups have challenged the Aquino government to follow through on the investigation of yet another journalist's killing, as outrage continues over the murder of General Santos City publisher and broadcaster Christopher Guarin. Guarin was shot Thursday by motorcycle-riding assassins while he was in a car with his family.
Guarin's murder was the latest media killing in the Philippines, and the first in the world in 2012.
The France-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres/RSF) condemned the murder of the “Tatak News Nationwide” publisher and Radyo Mo Nationwide (RMN) presenter, even as it voiced skepticism over the creation of a new body to probe the case.
“Special units have been set up in the past, such as Task Force 2011, without great results. The government’s credibility is on the line with this new body. The transparency of its investigations must be guaranteed, like that of any inquiry carried out by public officials,” the group said.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead Guarin in an ambush Thursday night in General Santos City.
Earlier reports said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Nicanor Bartolome ordered the creation of Special Investigation Task Group Guarin to investigate the killing.
The task force will include investigators from the General Santos City Police Office, the Crime Laboratory, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Intelligence Group and the PNP Task Force Usig.
Still, RSF said Guarin’s killing highlighted the “climate of insecurity that surrounds... media workers in the Philippines.”
“We welcome the formation of a team of independent investigators and lawyers from the private sector, but await further steps to protect media organizations and combat impunity,” it added.
Chased and killed
An investigation showed Guarin, accompanied by his wife and two children, was on his way home from work at about 10 p.m. when two men on a motorcycle opened fire on his car.
While he was hit by the first bullet, he managed to get out of the car and run. But the attackers chased him and fired several more shots, hitting him five times in the body and once in the head. Doctors pronounced him dead on arrival at a hospital.
Guarin’s wife, who was slightly wounded, said her husband had received death threats for several days prior to the attack.
The RSF said the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
“In 2011, two journalists were killed because of their work and five other media workers died for reasons that are still unexplained,” it said.
It added the metropolitan areas of Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao are among the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.
‘Failure to protect journalists’
Meanwhile, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Guarin and called on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice quickly.
“The murder of journalist Christopher Guarin speaks to the Benigno Aquino government’s growing failure to protect journalists and live up to its reform rhetoric,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia Representative.
“How many journalists must be killed with impunity before Aquino’s government takes seriously and acts decisively against the threat faced by all journalists across the Philippines?” he added.
CPJ also cited a statement from the media support group Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists that said Guarin’s death is “one more indication of the persistence of the culture of impunity that encourages the killing of journalists and media workers in the Philippines.”
The CPJ also noted the Philippines ranks third on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, a quantitative measure of the number of journalists killed for their work (without getting justice) worldwide.
“Guarin’s death is typical of many killings of journalists in the Philippines. Block-timing is a practice in which a broadcaster leases air time from a radio station and is responsible for bringing in advertising money to cover the program’s expenses. A number of block-time commentators, many with affiliations to local politicians, have been killed in the Philippines, according to CPJ research. Very often the killings come at the hands of assailants on motorcycles,” CPJ said.
It added Guarin, who ran for city councilor but lost in the 2010 elections, is the first Filipino journalist to be murdered this year.
At least two Philippine journalists were shot and killed in relation to their work in 2011, according to CPJ research. Both were local radio announcers.
CPJ is investigating the murders of three other journalists last year, but it is not clear if their deaths were related to their work as journalists. All three were also local radio announcers. — LBG/HS, GMA News
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