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Filipino broadcaster receives death threats for drug sting report

On September 19, 2014 the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joined its affiliate the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) in condemning recent threats made to a radio broadcaster from Maramag town, in Bukidnon in the Northern Mindanao region of the Philippines.

Mars Downyben Medina, a program director at Radyo Abante-Maramag and host of the daily morning news program and a weekly program for the provincial government, said he began receiving death threats via text message after five suspects of a drug raid in the nearby town of Kalilangan were arrested on Friday, September 12. Medina had been reporting on an anti-illegal drug operation, which saw the seizure of approximately 7million Philippine pesos (approx. US$157,000) worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride.

Medina said the text messages specifically referred to the September 12 drug bust and warned him that he was being targeted by drug lords for his reporting. Previously Medina had been visited by a police officer on leave, asking him to stop his reporting on illegal gambling. He said the police officer had offered him money in exchange for the station's silence with regard to illegal gambling operations in the province.

Radyo Abante has been the target of attacks before, with a grenade attack in June 2013. In November 2013, Joash Dignos, a radio broadcaster for the station, was murdered.

These threats come on the same day that the Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was quoted during a Belgian visit, controversially suggesting the journalists were somehow to blame for the impunity record: "For instance, in the media killings, some who used to work in media died. Did they die because they were investigative journalists? Were they exercising their profession in a responsible manner, living up to journalists' ethics? Or did they perish because of other reasons?"

The IFJ Asia Pacific Acting Director Jane Worthington said: "Death threats against journalists are a coward act that aims to suppress media freedom and deter journalists from doing their work. We commend Mars Downyben Medina's ethics in standing up against corruption and his bravery in taking this issue forward. All threats on journalists lives should be treated as a high priority, especially in the Philippines."

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Minimizing the killings

    ... the Philippine National Police has repeatedly claimed that not only were many of the individuals included by media advocacy and journalists' groups in their lists of slain journalists and media workers not killed for their work; most were not even journalists to begin with.

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