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Death threats made against several journalists

(IFJ/IFEX) - February 21, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is disturbed to learn that four journalists in the Philippines have received death threats after covering controversial issues recently near the capital, Manila, and on the southern island of Mindanao.

Three journalists based in Tarlac City, north of Manila, received death threats via SMS (text message) after writing a series of articles on alleged scams related to the ongoing construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, according to a report made to IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

People's Journal and People's Tonight correspondent George Hubierna received the first of the threats on January 8, the same day his report on the expressway was published. The text message said: "If you're George Hubierna, be careful - you don't know who you're up against."

This threat was followed on January 10 by a message from a former official of Gerona town to Tarlac Headline News columnist Nelson Bolos, which identified him as a member of the group behind the publication of reports on the expressway. Bolos worked as a researcher on Hubierna's reports.

Headline News publisher and editor-in-chief Paul Gonzales was threatened on January 24, when a text message he received said: "Let's see how brave you and Bolos are." The same mobile number had been used on January 22 to send a second threat to Hubierna.

Bolos had also been informed by a friend that two people "of shady character" were asking questions about Bolos and Hubierna, showing pictures of the two to verify their identities.

The NUJP also reported that a Gingoog City correspondent of a community newspaper based in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, in the country's south, reported receiving death threats from a Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Gingoog City.

Goldstar Daily correspondent Edwin Iyo said the CENRO contacted him on his mobile phone on February 16, and threatened to shoot him dead.

Iyo reported that the officer said he was offended by a text message Iyo had sent which detailed allegations of an extortion operation by a number of departmental personnel who were manning a checkpoint in Barangay Anakan, Gingoog City.

"Threats against journalists are a serious matter in the Philippines, where violent attempts to intimidate the work of these brave reporters are all too common," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The IFJ calls on the Philippines' authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that the journalists are protected and secure, the threats are thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators face the full force of the law for these crimes."
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