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Journalists investigating colleague's murder intimidated by disturbing messages sent to friends, family members

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 3 September 2008 IFJ press release:

Malicious Messages Target Journalists' Families and Friends in the Philippines

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is appalled that relatives and friends of four journalists in the Philippines received menacing text messages claiming falsely that three of the journalists had been killed and the other seriously injured in an accident in Capiz.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, the message sent on August 31 said NUJP Capiz chapter president John Heredia, Capiz Times editor Gerry Pagharion and Capiz Chronicle publisher Edward Basilonia were declared dead at Capiz Emmanuel Hospital while Inquirer correspondent Felipe Celino was in a critical condition.

The four journalists issued a statement on September 1 denouncing the text message as false and a menacing act that was "uncalled for and malicious."

All four have been reporting on the murder of another Capiz journalist, Martin Roxas, who was shot dead in Roxas City on August 7.

The text message, from an unknown sender, was also sent to Roxas City dyOW station manager Cyril Simpas and the governor of Capiz.

"While the IFJ is relieved to learn that the four journalists are safe and well, the threatening implication of such a message, sent after the murder of Martin Roxas, is deplorable," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Journalists in the Philippines face substantial daily risks to their personal safety to uphold the right to a free media and free expression. The anxiety caused to the families of these four journalists is incomprehensibly disrespectful."

The IFJ joins the NUJP in calling on local authorities to employ all resources to identify the person or persons responsible for sending the messages and to ensure they are adequately penalised.

For further information on the Roxas case, see:

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