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Reporter who spoke out against illegal mining gunned down

A radio broadcaster who spoke out against environmental abuse was shot dead this week in Palawan, a far-western island province in the Philippines. He was the second journalist killed under the new administration, report the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and other IFEX members.

Gerardo Ortega, a broadcaster with Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR and a former gubernatorial candidate, was shot in the head in Puerto Princesa while shopping on 24 January after airing his daily programme "Ramatak".

Joselito Alisuag, the Ortega family lawyer, said the broadcaster was a "staunch critic" of illegal mining activities in Palawan. Ortega also reported on alleged corruption in the provincial government. As well, says the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), he headed an ecotourism project in the province supported by the charitable arm of broadcaster ABS-CBN.

Alisuag told CMFR that the killing could only be related to Ortega's journalistic work. "He did not have any personal enemies, nor does he have any vices," Alisuag said. Ortega and one of his children, who is also a broadcaster, had also been receiving threats prior to the incident, Alisuag said.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), police immediately apprehended the alleged gunman, Marlon de Camata, who said that he and an accomplice had been contracted to kill Ortega to stop him from speaking out against powerful people.

Allegedly, they were to be paid 150,000 Philippine Pesos (US$3,400) "by influential persons with links to mining companies" - a fortune considering that a third of the population live on less than US$1 a day, a local police chief told AFP.

CMFR says that 118 journalists and media workers have been killed n the line of duty in the Philippines since the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

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    Gerardo Ortega's lawyer told CMFR that the broadcaster was a "staunch critic" of illegal mining activities in Palawan and had reported on alleged corruption in the provincial government on his program.

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