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TWO RMN JOURNALISTS KILLED; IMPUNITY REIGNS

Separate assaults killed two Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) broadcasters within four days in early August 2008. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a coalition of Thai, Indonesian and Filipino journalist and press freedom groups, said the deaths underscored a continuing crisis of impunity against journalists in the Philippines.

On 4 August, station dxMD anchorman Dennis Cuesta was ambushed and shot several times in General Santos City, Mindanao. He died after lying in a coma for three days.

On 7 August, Martin Roxas, program director of RMN's sister station dyVR, was shot from a motorcycle. He died in hospital in Roxas City, Capiz, an hour later.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said Roxas was the fourth Filipino journalist/media practitioner killed this year in the line of duty and the 33rd since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president.

RMN executives and colleagues believe both attacks were related to the victims' journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted that the killers rode motorcycles, common in shootings of Filipino journalists, and carried out the attacks in broad daylight.

"We are disgusted and we are outraged," said SEAPA executive director Roby Alampay. Just five months ago, journalists, jurists and human rights advocates from Southeast Asia, Europe, the United States and Latin America flew to Manila to call for an end to the impunity with which Filipino journalists are murdered. "No less than Chief Justice Reynato Puno set the tone for their meeting, saying ending violence against journalists is vital to press freedom and democracy and the very future of the Philippine nation. What has government so far done?"

During his 7 August radio program "Targetanay sa Ugto" ("Targeting at Noon"), Roxas interviewed politician Antonio del Rosario about financial aid given to indigent hospital patients during del Rosario's term as Roxas City mayor. Roxas had found fictitious names in the list of recipients, which he discussed on air for two weeks.

RMN?s Jeony Bigay said Roxas was on his way home later when attacked. The station had earlier reported harassment by three unidentified men in the same area to local police, Bigay added. "We believe this is 100% work-related."

Police in General Santos said they are investigating individuals who may have been angered by Cuesta's commentaries on the public affairs program "Straight to the Point", particularly ones involving a land dispute. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Cuesta was known for forthright commentaries on illegal gambling, drugs and corruption in government.

Visit these links:
- CMFR/SEAPA: http://tinyurl.com/5w6opa
- CPJ blog: http://tinyurl.com/695x5d
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/62h5zm
- International Herald Tribune: http://tinyurl.com/5rhqz9
(13 August 2008)

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