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JOURNALIST KILLED, ANOTHER WOUNDED IN SEPARATE SHOOTINGS

A murdered radio reporter and another journalist ambushed by gunmen last week are two of the latest victims of politically motivated attacks on journalists, activists and opposition leaders in the Philippines, report the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other press freedom groups. Most of these types of attacks go unpunished.

Carmelo Palacios, crime reporter for the government-run radio station dxRB Radyo ng Bayan, was found dead on 18 April in Nueva Ecija province, with gunshot wounds on his chin, heavy bruising on his body and a broken jaw. According to CMFR, the police officer heading the murder investigation said that Palacios must have "earned the ire of scallywag policemen and politicians," on whose crimes Palacios had reported. Palacios headed a local anti-crime group and had done a series of hard-hitting reports on the alleged misuse of funds by a congressman.

The following day, a correspondent for a leading daily newspaper was shot and wounded by two unidentified assailants. Delfin Mallari, a provincial correspondent for the Manila-based broadsheet "Philippine Daily Inquirer" ("PDI"), also the host of a local radio programme and editor of the local paper "Ang Dyaryo Natin", and co-host Johnny Glorioso of the ABS-CBN network, were ambushed by two gunmen, CMFR reports. Glorioso was not hurt in the shooting. Mallari is in stable condition after a bullet was removed from his body.

According to IFJ, Glorioso believes the attempt on Mallari's life was "politically motivated" - Mallari had received threats prior to the shooting. Both were local chapter officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ member. Mallari has covered the police, environment, and local elections. He also wrote articles on toxic waste problems, illegal logging and the drug trade.

This is the 51st journalist murdered during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's regime, according to IFJ. "This appalling murder is yet another tragic result of inaction from the Philippines government," IFJ says. 'The culture of impunity that has developed under Arroyo has seen these journalists' killers walk free."

According to the International Press Institute's annual press report, President Arroyo's government itself has contributed to an "unbearable climate" for journalists. CMFR reports that on 20 April, she issued an executive order that restricts public and media access to information to protect against "enemies of the state". Elsewhere, journalists are continuing to be slapped with criminal libel suits. In Cebu City, Leo Lastimosa, station manager of local ABS-CBN radio, was sued for libel by a local governor over stories that criticised the lack of transparency in government expenses. And in Albay, dzRH reporter Jun Alegre was arrested on 18 April and jailed over a 10-year-old libel case.

NUJP is calling on all their journalists to wear black on 24 April, the day of Palacio's funeral, and on 25 April, to express solidarity with journalists in Quezon who will be holding a rally and march in honour of their colleagues.

Visit these sites:
- CMFR: http://www.cmfr-phil.org
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/asia/phil19apr07na.html
- IFJ "IFJ calls on Arroyo to stop the bloodshed": http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=4848&Language=EN
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=21828
- NUJP: http://www.nujp.org/
- IPI: http://www.freemedia.at
(24 April 2007)

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