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Broadcaster wounded in ambush

(CMFR/IFEX) - A day after the first International Day to End Impunity on 23 November 2011, another radio broadcaster was critically wounded in an ambush in Cagayan de Oro City. Cagayan de Oro City is a chartered city 789 kilometers south of Manila.

Two men riding in tandem on a motorcycle shot and wounded James Michael "Bombo James" Licuanan, a reporter and anchor at Bombo Radyo Cagayan de Oro, on his way home from anchoring his evening program "Zona Libre" on 24 November 2011. Licuanan was shot a kilometer away from his office.

Senior Superintendent Gerardo Rosales, Cagayan de Oro City police director, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in a text message on 25 November 2011 that the bullet hit the broadcaster in the left buttock and passed through his abdomen. Licuanan is now in stable condition after undergoing an operation.

Bombo Radyo Cagayan de Oro station manager Celso Maldecer told CMFR that on the night of the attack, a "suspicious-looking" man went to the radio station and watched Licuanan conduct his program. The man left minutes before the program ended without approaching Licuanan. Police are looking into the man's connection to the attack, Maldecer said.

Maldecer said police have yet to identify the perpetrators. But police already have an artist's sketch of the man seen in the radio station.

Rosales said local police have created a special investigation task force to look into the shooting of Licuanan. The ambush might be related to Licuanan's commentaries, Rosales said.

Station manager Maldacer said Licuanan had been discussing the arrest of a Sammy Yusop by Phillipine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents. Yusop was arrested for carrying 1.5 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (estimated to cost P 20 million or US$458,000).

Maldecer said he and Licuanan's colleagues did not know that the broadcaster previously received a threatening text message. "He just told us now, he said that he received a threatening text message four months ago but he did not pay any attention to it," Maldecer told CMFR.

Maldacer said Licuanan's family expects the police to investigate the attack and identify and arrest the perpetrators. On the local media's part, Maldacer said "We cannot believe what happened. We are just doing our job as reporters and anchors. We do not carry guns. We only have microphones and we are just reporting anomalies. We condemn the ambush. We hope that authorities will speed up the investigation and arrest the perpetrators."

Many journalists and media workers killed and attacked in the line of duty were reporting on local governance and criminal activities in the provinces. For example, in March 2009, Radio Mindanao Network-Cagayan de Oro City head of reporters Nilo Labares was attacked for his reports on illegal gambling in the city. A frustrated murder case against the perpetrators is in court.

The day before the attack on Licuanan, 23 November 2011, press freedom advocates and media organizations around the world commemorated the massacre of 58 persons including 32 journalists and media workers who were covering the filing of a politician's certificate of candidacy in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. This year, November 23 also marked the first International Day to End Impunity.

Out of 123 cases of media workers who have been killed in work-related incidents since 1986, only 10 have been successfully prosecuted. This incident further demonstrates the pervasive and dangerous culture of impunity affecting media workers in the Philippines. The government must bring those responsible to justice to prevent it from continuing to endanger freedom of expression in the country.

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