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17 June 2010

Murder of journalists ‘threatens democracy’

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The recent killing of two Filipino journalists is a threat to the country’s democracy, a Philippine bishop says.

“If we don’t stop this [killing] … we will lose the essence of our democracy,” said Bishop Sergio L. Utleg of Laoag after two broadcasters were murdered within less than 24 hours of each other, reports.

The prelate called on journalists not to be afraid to speak the truth even in the face of such threats.

On Tuesday, gunmen shot and killed broadcaster Joselito Agustin, 37, in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. On Monday night, an assassin killed radio commentator Desidario “Jessie” Camangyan, 52, in Mabini town, Davao Oriental province.

Agustin was a “hero” for doing his job fearlessly, Bishop Utleg said, and appealed for justice to be meted out.

Camangyan’s murder has sent a “chilling effect” to people in Davao Oriental, said Benedictine Sister Stella Matutina.

Camangyan was a vocal critic of logging and mining operations in the area, an advocacy Sister Matutina initiated.

“We denounce this killing,” she said, adding that other members of her pro-environment group, Panalipdan (Defend), have also received death threats.

Meanwhile, the New York-based media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Philippine authorities to bring the killers to justice.

“The authorities must ensure that no witnesses are intimidated from coming forward or testifying, as has been the case in previous such murders in the Philippines,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

The CPJ said it had written to President-elect Benigno Aquino to address the country’s high rate of journalist murders.

On Tuesday, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) “mourned” the killing of Camangyan.

“There is no excuse for local authorities to delay in bringing the perpetrator and whoever may have ordered the killing to justice,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.


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